By Ray McDonald
We know we’re going to die. The circumstances usually remain a mystery – and mercifully so, don’t you think? However, when we can see the end approaching, how do we face it? For Glen Travis Campbell, the answer lies in his great love, music.
The son of an Arkansas farmer, he learned to play guitar as a boy. After kicking around with his musician uncle, he moved to Los Angeles at age 24, desperate to make his mark. He became a member of The Champs, who scored a nationwide hit with their instrumental single “Tequila.” One version of the band toured, while the other remained in Los Angeles to record. This was an innovative concept, which led to Campbell becoming an industry legend. He fell in with The Wrecking Crew, a loosely-knit cadre of musicians, songwriters, and producers responsible for much of Southern California’s musical output in the 1960s and early ’70s. Their work is heard on classic sides from Phil Spector, The Byrds, and literally hundreds of other acts.
Growing rich as a top session man, he still craved stardom. Glen Campbell signed with Capitol Records, the U-S home of The Beatles. Beginning in 1967 with “Gentle On My Mind,” he released a series of classic singles, including – in my opinion – one of the finest pop songs of the past half-century. Written by his friend Jimmy Webb, “Wichita Lineman” is a stunning achievement. It topped the country charts in the United States and Canada, and stands as a classic of its kind..
The above clip comes from “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour,” his weekly TV variety show which ran from 1969 to 1972. After that, he secured several acting and hosting jobs, including co-starring with John Wayne in the film “True Grit.” He also continued to make hit singles and albums. To date, Campbell has sold an estimated 45 million records, while amassing nine Grammy Awards, including a 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award.
It wasn’t all glorious. In the early 1980s, he had a brief, turbulent relationship with fellow singer Tanya Tucker. In 2003, he was arrested for drunk driving and reportedly assaulting a police officer. In June, 2011, Campbell announced that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. He had been suffering from short-term memory loss for years. Instead of retreating to his home, however, the 75-year-old singer decided to end as he had begun: as a working musician. He released a new album, “Ghost On The Canvas,” featuring the title cut written by Paul Westerberg of The Replacements.
Glen Campbell also hit the road, one last time. Three of his children played in his band on his Farewell Tour, which officially ended in April. With that announcement came news of another album. Arriving on July 30, “See You There” will feature other musicians re-imagining his classic hits. The vocals will be Campbell’s own…and I’m betting his final performance of “Wichita Lineman” will top them all.
What’s your favorite Glen Campbell memory?