Country Music Hall of Fame member Glen Campbell has passed away after a long battle with Alzheimers. He was 81. The passing was confirmed on Campbell's official Facebook and on his website here.
Glen Travis Campbell
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, at the age of 81, following his long and courageous battle with Alzheimer's disease.
Glen is survived by his wife, Kim Campbell of Nashville, TN; their three children, Cal, Shannon and Ashley; his children from previous marriages, Debby, Kelli, Travis, Kane, and Dillon; ten grandchildren, great- and great-great-grandchildren; sisters Barbara, Sandra, and Jane; and brothers John Wallace “Shorty” and Gerald.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Glen Campbell Memorial Fund at BrightFocus Foundation through the CareLiving.org donation page.
A personal statement from Kim Campbell will follow.
The family appreciates your prayers and respect for their privacy at this time.
Glen Campbell Dead at 81
8/8/2017 by Jennifer Frederick
AP Photo/Dan Loftin
Glen Campbell photographed on Oct. 12, 1987.
Hits for the clean-cut crossover star included “Wichita Lineman,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Gentle on My Mind” and “Rhinestone Cowboy.”
Glen Campbell, the boyish singer-guitarist whose perfect blend of country and pop made for such hits as “Gentle on My Mind,” “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Wichita Lineman” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” died Tuesday (Aug. 8) after struggling with Alzheimer's disease for years, a rep confirmed to Billboard. 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, at the age of 81, following his long and courageous battle with Alzheimer's disease," reads a statement from the family. "Glen is survived by his wife, Kim Campbell of Nashville, TN; their three children, Cal, Shannon and Ashley; his children from previous marriages, Debby, Kelli, Travis, Kane, and Dillon; ten grandchildren, great- and great-great-grandchildren; sisters Barbara, Sandra, and Jane; and brothers John Wallace “Shorty” and Gerald. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Glen Campbell Memorial Fund at BrightFocus Foundation through the CareLiving.org donation page. A personal statement from Kim Campbell will follow. The family appreciates your prayers and respect for their privacy at this time."
Campbell announced he was ill in June 2011 and was moved to a private care facility for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients near Nashville in April 2014.
In addition to “Wichita Lineman” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” Campbell scored with another Jimmy Webb penned hit, “Galveston. ” His renditions of Larry Weiss’ “Rhinestone Cowboy” and Allen Toussaint’s “Southern Nights” each made it to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In paving a path for other successful country crossover artists, Campbell released more than 60 studio albums -- selling 45 million and accumulating 12 gold, four platinum and one double-platinum album -- during his half-century in show business. He collected six Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year in 1968 for By the Time I Get to Phoenix, and was the recipient of the organization’s Lifetime Achievement honor in 2012.
“He had that beautiful tenor with a crystal-clear guitar sound, playing lines that were so inventive,” Tom Petty once told Rolling Stone magazine. “It moved me.”
From 1969-72, the Delight, Ark., native hosted the CBS variety show The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, and he starred as young Texas Ranger La Boeuf in True Grit (1969) after being handpicked by John Wayne to star opposite him in the Hollywood icon’s lone Oscar-winning role. He also sang the Oscar-nominated title track, composed by Elmer Bernstein and Don Black.
Born on April 22, 1936, to poverty-stricken parents Wesley and Carrie Dell, who picked cotton on a farm, Glen Travis Campbell was the seventh son, one of 12 siblings.
He moved to Los Angeles in the late 1950s, where he began to write songs and record demos, and he became a sought-after session guitarist, playing for Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, The Beach Boys (he played guitar on the Pet Sounds album and toured with the band for several months following the breakdown of Brian Wilson), Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and The Monkees, to name a few. He became part of Phil Spector’s The Wrecking Crew, the famed session band that played on many of the world’s biggest hits at L.A.’s Gold Star Studios, creating the producer’s legendary “Wall of Sound.”
In 1961, Campbell released the single “Turn Around, Look at Me” on tiny Crest Records, grabbing the attention of music executives. A year later, he was signed to Capitol Records, where his career was met with only minor success until he partnered with producer Al De Lory and songwriters Webb and Hartford.
Campbell teamed with De Lory on his fifth studio album Burning Bridges, a commercial breakthrough that was released by Capitol in 1967. His distinctive fingerpicking style and indelible guitar riffs were the perfect foundation that allowed his warm, personable vocals to shine, with the title track becoming a No. 18 Hot Country Songs hit. The two collaborated on John Hartford’s “Gentle on My Mind” that year, a top 40 hit on the pop and country charts.
Campbell’s biggest accomplishments came when he partnered with Webb in the late ’60s -- interpreting and singing his songs with a striking intimacy that made them his own. “On certain songs, the magic is undeniable: ‘Wichita Lineman’ and ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’…. it’s almost as though the song was waiting for the singer and the singer was waiting for the song,” Webb once said.
On The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour -- which began as a summer replacement for The Smothers Brothers Show and featured Steve Martin and Rob Reiner as writers and “Gentle on My Mind” as its theme song -- the clean-cut Campbell engaged in comedy skits when he wasn’t performing and featured many of his friends as musical guests, including The Monkees, Neil Diamond, Linda Ronstadt, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.
He also starred as the title character in the 1970 film comedy Norwood, playing opposite NFL quarterback Joe Namath as Vietnam veterans returning home to Texas. And in 1982, he fronted the syndicated Glen Campbell Music Show for NBC.
Campbell also played host to the Los Angeles Open, the PGA Tour’s stop at Riviera Country Club, from 1971-83, and in 1994 he opened the 2,200-seat Glen Campbell Goodtime Theatre in Branson, Mo.
Campbell was married four times, the last to Kim Woollen, a Radio City Rockette whom he wed in 1982 when he was 46 and she was 24. She survives him. His earlier marriages included one to singer Mac Davis’ second wife, Sarah Barg. (He also dated fellow country star Tanya Tucker before meeting Kim.)
Campbell had five sons and three daughters. His youngest children Cal, Shannon and Ashley joined him as his backup band on his last series of concerts, dubbed The Goodbye Tour, which launched in Los Angeles in late 2011.
“He'll struggle with a guitar solo one day and the next he’ll just nail it completely,” Ashley told the Tampa Bay Times about her father’s deteriorating condition. She played banjo and keyboards, with Cal on drums and Shannon on guitar alongside their dad.
Campbell’s family and friends created an undeniable bond while sharing his musical legacy one last time. Director and friendJames Keach captured these precious moments along with his personal struggle with the disease in the documentary, Glen Campbell … I’ll Be Me, which premiered at the 2014 Nashville Film Festival.
Complications and struggles with Alzheimer’s didn’t stop him from jumping up on a stage, guitar in hand, and serenading fans during his final shows. Campbell fumbled lyrics, searched for guitar riffs and showed moments of confusion telling his stories, but with his children and wife by his side, they gently reminded him along the way.
Campbell released the albums Ghost on the Canvas in 2012, which USA Today called “a museum-quality masterpiece,” and See You There, an album for Surfdog Records that was produced by Dave Kaplan and Dave Darling, in 2013. For the latter, he performed such hits as "Rhinestone Cowboy" with a stripped-down feel.
Speaking to Billboard of his final album, 2017's Adios, his wife Kim said “I miss my husband" in a recent interview. "It’s really sad. He’s in the late stages of Alzheimer’s. It’s so beautiful to me to hear him communicate with music. We’ll have that forever. It brings a tear to my eye. It’s a double-edged sword. It’s sweet, but it’s also bitter.”
Keach called Campbell “the original crossover musical genius, a man who is told to end his career and he does the opposite, inspiring the rest of us to live our lives in the moment and to be ourselves no matter what -- with no shame. He’s been down a rocky road and he still has a smile on his face and a song in his heart. That’s Glen.”
Glen Campbell, 'Rhinestone Cowboy' singer, dead at 81
Peter Cooper and Juli Thanki, For The TennesseanPublished 3:38 p.m. CT Aug. 8, 2017 | Updated 4:49 p.m. CT Aug. 8, 2017
Glen Travis Campbell brought country music to new audiences. He found success as a session musician before embarking on a solo career that included smashes “Gentle On My Mind,” “Galveston,” “Wichita Lineman” and “Rhinestone Cowboy” and that landed him in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
On Tuesday, his family released the following statement: "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, at the age of 81, following his long and courageous battle with Alzheimer's disease."
"Had Glen Campbell 'only' played guitar and never voiced a note, he would have spent a lifetime as one of America’s most consequential recording musicians," said Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, in a statement. "Had he never played guitar and 'only' sung, his voice would rank with American music’s most riveting, expressive, and enduring. He left indelible marks as a musician, a singer, and an entertainer, and he bravely shared his incalculable talent with adoring audiences even as he fought a cruel and dreaded disease. To all of us who heard and loved his soulful music, he was a delight."
A guitar virtuoso
Campbell was born on Apr. 22, 1936 in Delight, Arkansas, the seventh son of a seventh son in a farming family."I spent the early parts of my life looking at the north end of a southbound mule and it didn't take long to figure out that a guitar was a lot lighter than a plow handle," he said in a late 1970s press bio.
Each member of Campbell's family played guitar, and he received a $5 Sears & Roebuck guitar when he was 4 years old. By 6, he was a prodigy, internalizing music that ranged from simple country to sophisticated jazz. As a teenager, he dropped out of school in the 10th grade, left Arkansas and played in a New Mexico-based band led by his uncle, Dick Bills. He also married first wife Diane Kirk, though that marriage lasted fewer than three years.
While playing an Albuquerque club called the Hitching Post, Campbell met Billie Nunley, who soon became his second wife. The newlyweds left for California in 1960, riding to Los Angeles in a 1957 Chevrolet with $300 and a small trailer full of meager belongings. Mr. Campbell found work playing in rock groups including The Champs, a band that included Jim Seals and Dash Crofts, who would later become the hit-making duo Seals & Crofts.
Campbell's guitar acumen and versatility made him an essential player on Los Angeles' thriving recording scene in the 1960s, and he contributed to sessions for Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Rick Nelson, The Mamas and The Papas, Merle Haggard and many more. Campbell couldn’t read music, but he quickly became a respected, first-call player. He played on Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas,” The Monkees’ “Im’ a Believer,” Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night” and more. He played 12-string guitar on the Beach Boys’ “Sloop John B.,” and toured with the Beach Boys in 1965, as a replacement for the band’s troubled and reclusive leader, Brian Wilson.
Campbell was invited to join the Beach Boys as a full-time member in 1965, but he declined that opportunity. By then, he was set on establishing a solo career of his own.
Breaking into the mainstream
After recording a minor hit in 1961 with "Turn Around - Look at Me" for small, independent Crest Records, Campbell had signed with Capitol Records, releasing "Big Bluegrass Special" by "The Green River Boys Featuring Glen Campbell" in late 1962. His early albums received little in the way of attention or acclaim, but he broke into the mainstream in 1967, at first with the Top 20 country hit “Burning Bridges” but most notably with a nimble version of his friend John Hartford's drifter's masterpiece, "Gentle On My Mind."
“I still might run in silence, tears of joy might stain my face and the summer sun might burn me ‘til I’m blind,” Campbell sang, in a smooth, clear voice, with twang-less diction a broadcaster would envy. “But not to where I cannot see you walkin’ on the backroads, by the rivers flowing gentle on my mind.”
"Gentle On My Mind" did not ascend to the top of the Billboard country charts, but it was performing rights organization BMI's most-played song of 1969 and 1970. In 1999, BMI ranked “Gentle” as the second most-played country song of the century, and the 16th most-played song of the century in any genre.
TV show shoots career into the stratosphere
Campbell’s affable stage presence and camera-ready looks made him a natural for television.
"Someday, in the very near future," this talented young man is going to have his own television show," said comedian Joey Bishop in 1967, introducing Campbell on a late night variety show. Tommy Smothers of musical comedy act The Smothers Brothers watched and listened with interest. He also watched as Campbell’s follow-up to “Gentle,” the Jimmy Webb-penned “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” reached #2 on the “Billboard” country chart and #26 on the all-genre chart. In early 1968, Mr. Campbell won two Grammy awards for his recording of “Gentle On My Mind” and two more for “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” and the Smothers Brothers announced that Campbell would host his own television show, nationally televised on CBS.
Campbell’s show began as “The Summer Brothers Smothers Show,” a summer replacement for the Smothers Brothers, and it ran as a weekly variety show from January of 1969 through June of 1972. Each week, Campbell would sing the opening lines of “Gentle On My Mind” and then announce to viewers that they were watching “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.”
“I had albums before that, but once the TV show started everything really took off,” Campbell told The Tennessean in 2005. “I used that show to get every country act I could onto television.”
“The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour” featured much more than country. He performed Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” with Stevie Wonder and “Squares Make The World Go ‘Round” with the Smothers and Nancy Sinatra. He brought on teen favorites The Monkees (in earlier years, he’d played guitar on Monkees recording sessions) and west coast country-rock singer Linda Ronstadt. He stood and snapped his fingers like Frank Sinatra, and did a hip-shaking Elvis Presley impersonation.
Still, he made his country roots clear both on and off-camera, helping himself to major country chart successes in 1968 with “I Wanna Live” (his first No. 1), “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife,” (a No. 3 Billboard country hit) and his first cross-over smash, “Wichita Lineman,” which topped country and adult contemporary charts and landed at No. 3 on the pop charts. Producer Al DeLory’s sophisticated arrangements complemented a soaring voice, and Campbell was at the forefront of a modern country movement.
“The change that has come over country music lately is simple,” he told “TV Guide” in 1969. “They’re not shuckin’ it right off the cob any more..... I think the public is getting tired of all that crazy acid rock and wants to get back to good melodies. Country music has more impact now, because it’s earthy material - stories of things that happen to everyday people. I call it ‘People Music.’”
In the late 1960s, the “People Music” business was booming. Campbell won Country Music Association awards for best entertainer and male vocalist, two Academy of Country Music awards for best album and two more for male vocalist, and a total of five Grammy trophies. In 1969, buoyed by another Jimmy Webb-written gem, the soldier’s lament “Galveston” (a No. 1 country and adult contemporary hit), Campbell out-sold the Beatles.
"Not since Elvis Presley's ascendancy more than a decade ago has a young soloist come along to capture the mass audience with such effectiveness as Glen Campbell," wrote Vernon Scott of United Press International.
In this 2013 video, Glen Campbell's wife, Kim, tells USA TODAY about his life with Alzheimer's disease and his continued passion for music.
Campbell’s manager, Nick Sevano, arranged for the singer to act in movies including “True Grit” with John Wayne and “Norwood” with Kim Darby and Joe Namath, but Sevano combatted the Presley comparisons.
“I don’t think he’s a new Elvis,” Sevano told “TV Guide.” “I think Glen has a broader audience than Elvis.”
‘Drinking and cocaining’
Four of Campbell’s singles reached country music’s Top 10 in 1970, but his sales domination began to subside in the new decade. CBS cancelled his show in 1972, and his marriage to Billie was in trouble. Campbell developed an over-fondness for Glenlivet scotch, and his dedication to touring and performing came at the expense of his recordings.
But in 1975, after more than six years without a No. 1 hit, Campbell staged a comeback with “Rhinestone Cowboy.” Written by Larry Weiss, “Rhinestone Cowboy” topped both country and pop charts, and, reestablished Mr. Campbell as a hit-making, seat-filling force.
“I really just rode on the crest of that, to forget everything that was happening to Glen Campbell, personally,” Campbell told VH1’s “Behind the Music.”
“Rhinestone Cowboy” was a major anthem in the summer of 1975. In early fall, Billie Jean Campbell filed a divorce suit. By then, Campbell had, he would later reveal, begun using cocaine. That year, he also began dating Sarah Barg, the estranged wife of his friend and fellow performer, Mac Davis. He and Barg married in 1976, but Campbell’s cocaine use continued to escalate and the relationship suffered for that and other reasons.
“We were drinking and cocaining, and nothing lasts when you’re doing that,” he told VH1.
Campbell returned to the top of the charts in 1977 with “Southern Nights,” his final No. 1 hit. His behavior, though, was increasingly erratic. Campbell and Barg divorced in 1980, the same year he began dating powerhouse singer Tanya Tucker. She was 21, he was 44. The couple announced an engagement in late 1980, but the relationship ended, angrily, in early 1981. Campbell spent much of that year completely out of control, but a near-overdose in Las Vegas, a new relationship with a Radio City Music Hall Rockette named Kimberley Woolen helped spur newfound faith and a change of direction.
“I accepted Jesus Christ on December the 21st, 1981,” he told The Tennessean. “I’m singin’ a new song.”
Campbell married Kim Woolen in October of 1982, and she would be a sustaining influence for the rest of his life. He dropped cocaine, and eventually halted his drinking, and he reached country music’s Top 10 with 1984’s “Faithless Love” and “A Lady Like You,” 1985’s “(Love Always) Letter To Home” and “It’s Just A Matter of Time,” 1987’s “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle” (with Steve Wariner) and “Still Within The Sound Of My Voice,” 1988’s “I Have You” and 1989’s “She’s Gone, Gone, Gone.” He also aided Alan Jackson’s ascent to country music stardom, suggesting Jackson move to Nashville and helping him to become a staff songwriter at his Glen Campbell Music publishing company.
The 1990s held no hits for Campbell, but he performed often, opening the Glen Campbell Goodtime Theatre in Branson in 1994 and starring there for three seasons. In 2003, he was arrested near his Phoenix home on drunk driving, hit-and-run and assault charges. He later pled guilty to extreme DUI, apologized to fans and entered a care facility. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005, by which point he was already showing signs of dementia, seeming shaky in interviews though he clearly understood and appreciated the honor.
“You can have ‘male vocalist’ and all that stuff,” he told The Tennessean. “I’ll take the Hall of Fame. It’s the highest honor you can have in country music, and this makes me feel so good.”
Capitol Records released Campbell’s 60th studio album, the critically acclaimed “Meet Glen Campbell” album in 2008, with Campbell covering songs written by rock royalty including U2, Lou Reed, Tom Petty and Dave Grohl. “Meet Glen Campbell” provided music fans a reintroduction to Campbell’s musicality, with his still-strong voice and still-potent guitar.
The Alzheimer’s diagnosis
In 2011, Campbell and his wife announced that he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, but that he would release a new album and go on a “Goodbye Tour” while he could still perform. The new album, released on Surfdog Records, was praised by Will Hermes of “Rolling Stone” as “baroquely arranged drama that echos his string-swelled seventies hits..... Dude’s definitely not going out softly.”
Glen Campbell’s last record, “Adios," was “therapeutic” for the legendary country singer who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, said his daughter Ashley Campbell. The singer recorded the album after his diagnosis in 2011, and is now in the late stages of the disease, living in a memory care facility in Nashville, Tennessee. (June 15) AP
Campbell played his final Nashville show in early January of 2012, performing at the Ryman with a band that included three of his children. He opened with “Gentle On My Mind,” played many of his hits and thrilled an audience that included Tucker, “Grand Ole Opry” stars Jeannie Seely and Ricky Skaggs and fellow Country Music Hall of Famer Ralph Emery.
“Campbell remained in fine voice and proved to still be a staggeringly sharp and fluid guitarist, wowing the crowd early on with an explosive solo on ‘Gentle’ and muscular melodic licks on his classic ‘Galveston,’” wrote Dave Paulson of The Tennessean.
He read lyrics from a Teleprompter that night, but imbued each song with significant feeling.
“An encore in the tightly scripted show wasn’t a sure thing,” Paulson wrote. “But Campbell returned to the room’s delight for ‘In My Arms’ - another affirming cut from ‘Canvas’ - before taking bows with his band and giving his crowd a last - and clearly loving - wave goodbye.”
At the Grammy Awards in Feb. of 2012, The Band Perry performed “Gentle On My Mind,” and Blake Shelton sang “Southern Nights” before Campbell took the stage to sing “Rhinestone Cowboy,” with Paul McCartney pumping his fist from the audience in approval.
Campbell played his final show on Nov. 30, 2012 in Napa, Cal. Early in 2014, he showed up at the venerable Station Inn to watch daughter Ashley Campbell perform with his old friend, Carl Jackson. In April of 2014, his family confirmed that Campbell was staying in a Middle Tennessee memory-care facility. That month, "I'll Be Me," a documentary about Campbell's final tour, debuted at the Nashville Film Festival. The film's theme, "I'm Not Gonna Miss You," was written by Campbell and director Julian Raymond. It won the Best Country Song Grammy Award and was nominated for an Academy Award.
“There’s a lot of sadness, (but) we just continue to try to make the best of every day and keep a sense of humor,” his wife told “People” magazine.
In June, Campbell released his final album, “Adios," which was produced by his former bandmate and longtime friend Carl Jackson. The bittersweet record includes a duet with fellow legend Willie Nelson on “Funny How Time Slips Away.” Vince Gill contributes harmony vocals to “Am I All Alone (Or Is It Only Me).” Ashley Campbell appears on several tracks, including “Postcard from Paris,” which also features sons Cal and Shannon Campbell.
Campbell is survived by his wife, Kim Campbell of Nashville, TN; their three children, Cal, Shannon and Ashley; his children from previous marriages, Debby, Kelli, Travis, Kane, and Dillon; ten grandchildren, great- and great-great-grandchildren; sisters Barbara, Sandra, and Jane; and brothers John Wallace “Shorty” and Gerald.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Glen Campbell Memorial Fund at BrightFocus Foundation through careliving.org/glen-campbell-memorial-donation/.