Legends: Glen Campbell

He played with all kinds of genres, with different instrumentation and different styles. If it was a just and righteous world, Glen would be credited as one of the great, seminal influences of all time. He was a secret weapon in the armory of Sixties record producers.

Singer-songwriter Jimmy Webb

Glen Campbell was an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, television host, and actor who rose to stardom in the late 1960s and 1970s with a series of hit songs that crossed the boundaries of country and pop music . He also hosted the popular comedy variety show, ‘The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour’ , and starred in the film True Grit (1969), for which he received a Golden Globe nomination. In this essay, we will explore how Campbell’s musical career reflected his personal life, his struggles with addiction and Alzheimer’s disease, and his legacy as a country music legend. To do this, we will first discuss his early life and musical influences, then his success as a session musician and a solo artist in the 1960s, followed by his transition to television and film in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Next, we will examine his challenges with substance abuse and marital problems in the mid-1970s and 1980s, and his comeback and resurgence in the late 1980s and 1990s. Finally, we will analyse his diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease in the early 2010s, his farewell tour, his documentary film, his final album, and his death on August 8, 2017.

Early Life and Influences

Glen Campbell’s musical journey began in his childhood, when he grew up in a poor farming family in Arkansas and learned to play guitar at a young age. Musical from a young age, his father bought him a $5 Sears and Roebuck guitar; within a few years, Campbell was appearing as a paid act and performing guest spots on local radio stations.

glen campbell1969
Glen Campbell in 1969

He was inspired by various artists, such as Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers, and the jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, who impressed him with his fiery technique. Campbell started performing as a paid act and appearing on local radio stations when he was still a teenager. He also joined his uncle’s band, the Sandia Mountain Boys, and played country and Western swing music. In 1958, he formed his own group, the Western Wranglers, and moved to Los Angeles in 1960 to pursue a career as a session musician. There, he became part of the famous Wrecking Crew, a group of studio musicians who played on numerous hit records by various artists. Campbell’s early life and musical influences shaped his versatile and distinctive style as a singer, songwriter, and guitarist.

Success as a session musician.

One of the reasons why Glen Campbell became a famous musician was his versatility and talent as a session musician and a solo artist in the 1960s. As a session musician, he played guitar for some of the most popular artists of the time, such as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Merle Haggard, and the Monkees. He also joined the Beach Boys as a temporary replacement for Brian Wilson, and contributed to their landmark album Pet Sounds (1966). As a solo artist, he recorded several albums that blended country and pop music, such as By the Time I Get to Phoenix (1967) and Wichita Lineman (1968), which featured songs written by Jimmy Webb. These albums earned him critical acclaim and commercial success, as well as four Grammy Awards in 1967 and 1968. Campbell’s distinctive voice and guitar style appealed to both country and pop audiences, making him one of the most successful crossover artists of the decade.

Television and Film

Another aspect of Glen Campbell’s fame was his involvement in television and film in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He had his own TV show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, which ran from 1969 to 1972 on CBS. The show featured musical performances and comedy sketches with Campbell and various guest stars, such as Ray Charles, Cher, Neil Diamond, Lily Tomlin, and Three Dog Night.

True Grit (1969)

He also appeared in several movies, most notably True Grit (1969), based on a novel by Charles Portis. He starred alongside John Wayne as a Texas Ranger who helps a young girl track down her father’s killer. He also sang the film’s eponymous title song, which was nominated for an Academy Award. He continued his acting career with films like Norwood (1970) and The Last Movie (1971), and collaborated with other celebrities like Bob Hope and Carol Burnett on TV specials. Campbell’s transition to television and film expanded his audience and showcased his charisma and versatility as an entertainer.

Glen Campbell’s Most Famous Songs

Glen Campbell’s most famous song is Rhinestone Cowboy, which topped both the pop and country charts in 1975. The song was written by Larry Weiss and originally recorded by him in 1974, but Campbell’s version became a huge hit and a signature song for him. The song is about a struggling musician who dreams of making it big in the music industry, and it resonated with Campbell’s own life story. The song has been covered by many artists, such as David Hasselhoff, Charley Pride, and Radiohead. The song also inspired the title of Campbell’s 1987 autobiography. The chorus of the song goes like this:

Like a rhinestone cowboy / Riding out on a horse in a star-spangled rodeo / Like a rhinestone cowboy / Getting cards and letters from people I don't even know / And offers comin' over the phone.

Wichita Lineman is another famous song by Glen Campbell, written by Jimmy Webb in 1968. The song was inspired by Webb’s sight of a lone lineman working on a telephone pole in rural Oklahoma. The song is about a lonely and restless worker who longs for his lover, whom he can only hear through the phone line. The song was a hit for Campbell, reaching number three on the pop chart and number one on the country chart in the U.S.. The song has been praised as “the first existential country song” and “the greatest pop song ever composed”. The song has been covered by many artists, such as Johnny Cash, R.E.M., James Taylor, and Tom Jones. The chorus of the song goes like this:

And I need you more than want you / And I want you for all time / And the Wichita lineman is still on the line.

Let’s not forget Southern Nights with it’s amazing guitar riffs and Galveston, in which Webb’s lyrics chronicled a man who was fighting overseas, with those who were important to him on his mind.

Fame and Fortune at a Price

However, Glen Campbell’s fame and fortune came at a price, as he struggled with substance abuse and marital problems in the mid-1970s and 1980s. He became addicted to cocaine and alcohol, which affected his health and performance. He also had a turbulent personal life, divorcing his second wife Billie Jean Nunley in 1976 after 16 years of marriage. He then married Sarah Barg Davis, the ex-wife of his friend Mac Davis, but their relationship was marred by infidelity and violence. In 1980, he had a highly publicized affair with country singer Tanya Tucker, who was 22 years younger than him. Their relationship was marked by constant arguments and drug use, and they broke up after a few months.

In 1981, Campbell was arrested for drunk driving and assaulting a police officer in Los Angeles. He claimed that he was not drunk but “over-served” by a bartender. He also reportedly trashed a hotel room in New York during a fight with Tucker.

Kimberly Woollen and Glen Campbell. Photo credit: careliving.org

Campbell eventually found solace in religion, becoming a born-again Christian in 1981. He also met his fourth and final wife, Kimberly Woollen, on a blind date in 1981. They married in 1982 and had three children together. With her support, Campbell quit cocaine and alcohol for good in 1987. He credited his faith and family for saving his life and career.

Comeback Campbell

Despite his personal and professional difficulties, Glen Campbell made a comeback and a resurgence in the late 1980s and 1990s. He scored two number one country hits in 1981 with “Southern Nights” and “Sunflower,” both of which also reached the pop Top Ten . He also had a string of Top Ten country hits in the mid-1980s, such as “Faithless Love,” “A Lady Like You,” and “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” .

In 1985, he hosted a short-lived syndicated talk show, The Glen Campbell Music Show. In 1987, he published his autobiography, Rhinestone Cowboy. In 1994, he recorded a comeback album, Glen Campbell Live! His Greatest Hits, which featured updated versions of his classic songs and some new material.

He also collaborated with younger artists, such as Tanya Tucker, who duetted with him on “Dream Lover” (1986), and Brad Paisley, who featured him on “Farther Along” (2003) . In 2005, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and in 2008, he released Meet Glen Campbell, an album of cover versions of songs by contemporary artists like U2, Green Day, and Foo Fighters. The album received positive reviews and introduced him to a new generation of fans

The Final Chapter

glen campbell live goodtime theater branson mi

The final chapter of Glen Campbell’s life was marked by his diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease in the early 2010s. Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disorder that causes memory loss, confusion, and eventually death. Campbell was diagnosed with the disease in 2011, at the age of 75, according to Rolling Stone. Instead of retiring, he decided to embark on a farewell tour, which lasted from 2011 to 2012 and included 151 shows across the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia. He was accompanied by his family members, who also served as his bandmates and caregivers. He also recorded his final album, Ghost on the Canvas (2011), which featured songs that reflected on his life and career. Campbell’s courage and honesty in facing his condition were documented in the film Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me (2014), which followed him on his tour and showed his decline and resilience. He wrote the song I’m Not Gonna Miss You after a conversation about his disease with producer Julian Raymond, where he lamented that he didn’t understand the fuss that people were making over his diagnosis. After all, he reasoned, he wasn’t going to miss anyone.

The film also featured this, his last song, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” which he co-wrote with Julian Raymond and which expressed his acceptance and love for his wife Kim. The song won a Grammy Award and was nominated for an Academy Award in 2015. Campbell’s health deteriorated over the years, and he was moved to a specialized care facility in Nashville in 2014. He died on August 8, 2017, at the age of 81. His death was mourned by millions of fans and fellow musicians, who praised him as one of the greatest artists of all time.

Glen Campbell: A Legend of Country Music

Glen Campbell was a remarkable musician who influenced generations of country and pop artists with his distinctive voice, guitar skills, and songwriting abilities. His life story was marked by both triumphs and tragedies, as he faced fame, fortune, addiction, divorce, disease, and death. Through it all, he remained true to himself and his music, leaving behind a legacy of timeless songs that touched millions of hearts around the world. In this article, we have explored how Campbell’s musical career reflected his personal life, his struggles with addiction and Alzheimer’s disease, and his legacy as a country music legend. We have shown how he rose from a poor farm boy to a session musician and a solo star in the 1960s, how he expanded his audience and fame with television and film in the late 1960s and early 1970s, how he overcame his substance abuse and marital problems in the mid-1970s and 1980s, how he made a comeback and a resurgence in the late 1980s and 1990s, and how he bravely faced his diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease in the early 2010s. Glen Campbell’s life and music are an inspiration to anyone who loves music and who values courage, honesty, and love.

As he sang in one of his most famous songs, “I am a lineman for the county / And I drive the main road / Searchin’ in the sun for another overload / I hear you singin’ in the wire / I can hear you through the whine / And the Wichita lineman is still on the line.”

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