The day I have dreaded for several years finally came as singer/guitarist Glen Campbell died Tuesday after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 81.
Campbell was one of the artists that I loved as a child. In fact, I was probably five when I learned and memorized all of the words to “Rhinestone Cowboy.” That song captured my imagination like nothing else at the time. It would be much, much later in life before I realized the song was actually quite sad and its titular character was a failed Nashville songwriter.
I remember being quite saddened by the news that Campbell was retiring from performing after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
I saw Campbell perform in the early 2000s — I think it was 2003. He performed at the Silver Star Casino in Choctaw, Mississippi, with the legendary Roy Clark. I remember the hearing Campbell’s smooth voice for the first time live and it was just as incredible as it had sounded on his records. I was always blown away by what a great guitar player he was. Campbell is certainly an underrated guitarist.
The natural thing for one to do when anyone dies is to make them a saint. Campbell was far from sainthood. He was a flawed man who had battled chemical dependency, martial infidelity and other issues that made him more human than a saint.
But man, could he sing. And the way he faced his debilitating diagnosis with courage and dignity was perhaps his finest moment.
As the news of Campbell’s death started to spread, so did the tributes on social media.
Campbell was a member of the studio greats the Wrecking Crew and he played on tons of records, including the Beach Boys classic “Pet Sounds.” So when Brian Wilson wasn’t able to tour, he joined the Beach Boys as the group’s bass player and backup singer.
Songwriter Jimmy Webb was a longtime friend of Campbell’s. In fact, he wrote some of Campbell’s biggest hits including “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston.”
The Band Perry covered “Gentle on My Mind” for the soundtrack to the documentary “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me.”
Campbell’s daughter Ashley, who toured and performed with Campbell until he retired, paid tribute to her late father with a Facebook post Tuesday afternoon.