The Rhinestone Cowboy, Glen Campbell, will always be Gentle on My Mind

by Laura Lou / 127 days ago / Comments
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I received the telephone call this afternoon that Glen Campbell, the legend in both the music and entertainment industries, respectively, had finally lost his long-term fight with Alzheimer’s Disease and had passed away at the age of 81.

My editor had a request of me, which was would I be willing to write a tribute piece on Campbell?  Me? What will I say?  How can I possibly express the career accomplishments and the personal struggles as well as joys in a tribute article?  How can “I” make an impact on any reader or introduce this legend to those who have not been so lucky to have experienced “Glen Campbell”.  This is probably the most nerve-racking assignment I have been given to date, probably because I tend to be a perfectionist with certain things and this is such an honor to be able to write, I do not want to let anyone down, most importantly the memory of Campbell himself.

To make things even more difficult for me with this assignment, I am traveling and currently on the way to South Dakota after spending some time in Cheyenne, Wyoming covering some events.  This means, no immediate access to the internet, a lot of restricted access to the cellular carrier I use, and the biggest problem, I cannot type and drive.  One thing that does work to my advantage in this particular case is that I can turn on Campbell’s music and just engulf myself in what makes him so beloved by everyone and why this loss to the music and entertainment industries, respectively, is being taken so hard.

I immediately went into research mode.  What is it that I did not know about Campbell that I needed to know in order to make this worthy of a life-o-accomplishments list?

Here is where I kept losing focus.  Every time I would sit down to write out a “fact” about Campbell, it would remind me of a memory that I, personally experienced, which led to me scrapping the article and starting over.  So, here I am, and I think this time, the best way to do this is to just share with you from my heart and my experiences all wrapped up with factual information.

Here are the facts:

Glen Campbell, born April 22, 1936, in Billtown, Arkansas was a singer, songwriter, musician, actor and even a television host for a short time.  Campbell is probably best known for his series of hits between the 1960’s and 1970’s.  In addition, he spent 3 years as the host of a music and comedy variety show called The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, which aired on CBS from January of 1969 to June of 1972.

Campbell has over fifty years in the entertainment business and during that time, he released more than seventy albums, sold 45 million records and accumulated twelve RIAA gold albums, four platinum albums, and one double-platinum album.  With all that music, he placed a total of 80 different songs on The Billboards Country Chart, Billboard Hot 100 Chart or the Adult Contemporary Chart.  Twenty-nine of those eighty, made the Top 10 and nine reached the number one spot on one of the charts.

To mention all eighty singles would take up, obviously, a lot of room in the article so let’s stick with the most recognizable of them.  Campbell’s hits included “Gentle on My Mind”, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”, “Wichita Lineman”, “Galveston”, “Southern Nights” and lastly, the most well-known of them all, “Rhinestone Cowboy”.

Campbell made music history in 1967 when he was the first artist to win four Grammys in both the country and pop categories for “Gentle on My Mind” which won two awards in the Country and Western category, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” won the same in the Pop category.  Later in his career, he would go on to win Grammy Hall of Fame Awards in 2000, 2004 and 2008 for three of his early hits. Additionally, Campbell himself won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.  He was awarded Male Vocalist of the Year from both the Country Music Association (CMA) and the Academy of Country Music (ACM) and took the CMA’s top award as Entertainer of the Year in 1968. 

In film, Campbell received a Golden Globe nomination for his supporting role in “True Grit” in 1969 for the Most Promising Newcomer.  As a side note, Campbell also sang the title song, which was also nominated for an Academy Award.

All of that for someone who moved to Los Angeles in 1960 to pursue a career as a session musician.  That gig worked out pretty good for Campbell as he played on recordings for Bobby Dean, Ricky Nelson, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, the Monkees, Nancy Sinatra, Merle Haggard, Jan and Dean, Frank Sinatra, Phil Spector, Ronnie Dove, the Beach Boys and Elvis Presley.

From December 1964 to early March 1965, Campbell was a touring member of the Beach Boys, filling in for Brian Wilson, playing guitar and singing harmonies.  In April of 1966, Campbell joined Ricky Nelson on tour through the Far East playing bass.

In 2005, Campbell was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame followed by an announcement in April of 2008 that he was returning to his signature label, Capitol, to release a new album titled. “Meet Glen Campbell “which was released in August of that year.  With a different twist on what everyone was used to from him, Campbell made this one a cover album, branching off with his version of covers from U2, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Jackson Browne and Foo Fighters.  There were musicians on this album from Cheap Trick as well as Jellyfish and the first single release in July of 2008 was a cover of Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”.

To follow-up, in August of 2011, Campbell recorded a companion album to” Meet Glen Campbell” titled “Ghost on the Canvas” which was to be a then-farewell album.  This album included collaborations from Paul Westerberg, Jakob Dylan, Chris Isaak, Rick Nielsen and Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins.

The tour for this album resulted in being a “Goodbye Tour”, following his Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Three of his children joined him on this tour, with the final show being on November 20, 2012.  At the end of the tour, Campbell would enter the studio in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, for the last time, to leave us all with a final album titled Adios’, which would not be revealed until five years after recording.

Campbell’s wife, Kim, said in a statement about the album, “he wanted to preserve what magic was left in what would be his final recordings.”

In January of 2013, Campbell’s final song is one that touched so many, titled “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”, wherein he emotionally sings of the struggles of Alzheimer’s and that the best part, if there is one, is that once the disease progresses, he would not remember anyone, therefore, he would not miss anyone.

This song, which was featured in the documentary Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, was released on September 20, 2014, followed by the documentary being released in October of 2014. Once again, Campbell and his fellow songwriter were nominated for Best Original Song at the 87th Academy Awards.

In August of 2016, Kim would accept Campbell’s final award, on his behalf, from the Academy of Country Music with the Career Achievement Award.

To bring everything full-circle, in June of 2017, Campbell’s final album, Adios’, which featured twelve songs from his final 2012-2013 sessions, was released.

Now, the facts are out of the way and I could spend a lot more time and detail on each and every one of them.  However, this article is my tribute to Glen Campbell and as I do with all of my articles or interviews, I want to bring the truth and the emotion to you, regardless of the topic.

Glen Campbell, The Rhinestone Cowboy, will always be Gentle on My Mind.  The title of this article is also a statement of fact as well, to my personal emotion with this loss.

When I was growing up, there was never a time when music was not playing.  Always country music at that, so for me, when I recall a memory, I also recall the artist and the song that was playing in the background of my memory at the time.  It seems that there are many memories with Campbell at the forefront.  “The Rhinestone Cowboy” for example brings back a memory from childhood of driving with my family to Virginia.  What a great song to sing and what lyrical expression to allow me to picture what the “Rhinestone Cowboy” might look like.  I could imagine what he wore, the rhinestone sparkle, the torment that he was going through as well as the love for what he is doing.  He became a figure in my memory, even all these years later. 

Only a true artist gives you that photograph in your mind or that feeling when you hear a song and you are transported to that place and that time.

"Gentle on My Mind", as a second example, is a song that until very recently, I honestly had never listened to the words specifically to know exactly what he was talking about in the song, yet, I always loved the melody and the feeling that I had when it came on.  What a great title, Gentle on my mind. Of course, that is memorable.  Not just for context but for instrumentation, composition, recording, production, and delivery every time it was performed. 

Learning of Campbell’s passing touched me more than I think I expected it would.  For all the reasons that everyone will share over the next several days, weeks and months, but also because I felt as if I knew him.  As if he was a friend of mine who has always been there since I can remember.  His influence in my life and in my memory is there and I am grateful for that.

Additionally, I lost my grandmother to this horrific disease and my heart breaks for his wife, children, and family because this is not just a quick and sudden death.  This is a torturous death for all involved.  We lose our loved ones’ way before they actually pass away and it becomes the saddest thing to look into the eyes of a person you have loved and known your entire life and they have no idea who you are.  The research is slow, the progress of treatment is slow.  The progression rate is getting quicker every day and there must be an answer.  Not just for us, the caregivers and family members, but for the afflicted. 

My heart is with the Campbell family and I would like to send a great big hug and “we love you” to each and all of them.  The feeling of loss mixed with relief that he is no longer suffering is always a tough struggle.  The great part here is that there are so many songs and so much legacy left behind that while Campbell may be in a much better place now, his impact on this world and its musical paths, as well as its history and future, have been forever changed and affected by the magic he created and gave to all of us.

For all you left me, for all the memories I have throughout your career that were moments in my life, for the local genus and the musical compositions that cannot be matched, I thank you, Mr. Campbell.  I will cherish each and every one of them and always carry a part of your legacy with me, as will every person that has that memory of the Rhinestone Cowboy.

Thank you for your gifts and thank you to the Campbell family for sharing him with the world.

 

 

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About Laura Lou

Laura Lou Journalist

Beginning about age 13, music always been my “safe place”, my “escape”, it became a part of who I am. My background includes being a photographer/journalist for newspapers, magazines and radio stations and more recently I have been an artist manager. What I continue to strive to learn is, what is important to the fans/readers? I find that the answer is always that they want to feel close to the artist they are supporting. The human contact that we all need is something that I want to deliver to anyone that happens to read something I write or see a photograph I shoot. It is important to me to provide that experience, because I am, after all, still always a “fan” and that giddy 13-year-old girl is simply amazed! I never imagined that my passion and love for music would lead me where I am today! I use the hashtag #iamtheluckiestgirliknow because I cannot believe how blessed I am! I’m excited to see “what happens next” and take you all along with me! This is going to be amazing…