Country Star Glen Campbell Dies From Alzheimer’s Disease
Glen Campbell, the upbeat guitarist from Delight, Arkansas, whose smooth vocals and down-home manner made him a mainstay of music and television for decades, has died, his family announced on Facebook on Tuesday. He was 81.
“It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved husband, father, grandfather, and legendary singer and guitarist, Glen Travis Campbell … following his long and courageous battle with Alzheimer’s disease,” a Facebook statement said.
Campbell is best remembered for a string of country-inflected hits that ran from the mid-’60s to the late ’80s: “Gentle on My Mind,” “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston,” “Southern Nights” and “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” among them.
They fit in neatly on both pop and country radio, with two of them — “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Southern Nights” — hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
He was also famous for “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour,” a TV variety show that ran from 1969 to 1972.
Before he became a solo star, Campbell was one of the music business’ most in-demand session guitarists, known for his astonishing speed and his brilliant ear.
He was part of the famed “Wrecking Crew” of L.A. session musicians that included Hal Blaine, Leon Russell, Larry Knechtel and Carol Kaye. The crack band played on records by Phil Spector, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, the Monkees, the Beach Boys and Frank Sinatra.
That’s Campbell’s fretwork on the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” and “Help Me Rhonda,” Sinatra’s “Something in the Night” and Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas,” among hundreds of recordings.
Such versatility was a necessity to get work and stay fresh, Campbell said in an interview. As a teenager, he was in a band with his uncle and the group had a regular radio gig.
“Music was my world before they started putting a label on it,” he told ClassicBands.com in 1999. “We had a five-day-a-week radio show, six, seven years. You use up a lot of material doing that. We did everything from country to pop, when rock came along.”
In 2011, he announced he had Alzheimer’s. Despite the diagnosis, he released an album, “Ghost on the Canvas,” to positive reviews, and followed it with a tour. He was showered with awards, including a lifetime honor from the Grammys.
Later, he made a documentary, “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me,” that showcased the struggles on his final tour. A song from the movie, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” was nominated for an Oscar.
During the “Ghost” tour, there were times he would forget lyrics or find himself suddenly unfamiliar with a chord change. The audience urged him on, singing the song and guiding him back into the groove.
He told CNN he had no regrets.
“I am content with it. Don’t cry over spilt milk,” he said. “Get up and be a man and do what you have got to do.”
Campbell is survived by his wife, Kim, and eight children.