Famed singer and musician Glen Campbell, 81, has lost his battle with Alzheimer's disease. He died today.
He began his career as a well-regarded session musician, working often with the Beach Boys. When he struck out on his own in the late 1960s, with hits like "Gentle on My Mind," "Wichita Lineman," and "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," he hit the big time. He never lost his popularity.
Campbell's biggest years were undoubtedly during the late 1960s, when he was featured on the Smothers Brothers television show and had his own variety series, through the early 1970s. Even so, his biggest and most famous hit, "Rhinestone Cowboy," was recorded and released several years later, in 1975. He played a variety of musical instruments. His boyish good looks in the early years of his stardom didn't hurt him, either.
Campbell was known for fusing pop with country music.
When Campbell announced a few years ago he was stricken with Alzheimer's, he did a farewell tour and an album. He also was the subject of a documentary.
Campbell was born in 1936 in Billstown, Arkansas, the seventh son in a sharecropping family of 12 kids. "We used to watch TV by candlelight," Campbell told Rolling Stone in 2011.
In his youth, Campbell started playing guitar and became obsessed with jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. He dropped out of school when he was 14 and moved to Wyoming with an uncle who was a musician, playing gigs together at rural bars. He soon moved to Los Angeles and by 1962 had solidified a spot in the Wrecking Crew, a group of session pros. In 1963 alone, he appeared on 586 cuts and countless more throughout the decade, including the Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man," Elvis Presley's "Viva Las Vegas,” Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried" and the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling."
In late 1964, Brian Wilson had a nervous breakdown on tour with the Beach Boys, and the band called on Campbell to replace him on bass and high harmonies. "I took Brian's place and that was just ... I was in heaven then – hog heaven!" Campbell remarked.
The rest is history.
Vintage Campbell. "Try a Little Kindness":
New York Times:
At the height of his career, Mr. Campbell was one of the biggest names in show business, his appeal based not just on his music but also on his easygoing manner and his apple-cheeked, all-American good looks. From 1969 to 1972 he had his own weekly television show, “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.” He sold an estimated 45 million records and had numerous hits on both the pop and country charts. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005.
Decades after Mr. Campbell recorded his biggest hits — including “Wichita Lineman,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Galveston” (all written by Jimmy Webb, his frequent collaborator for nearly 40 years) and “Southern Nights” (1977), written by Allen Toussaint, which went to No. 1 on pop as well as country charts — a resurgence of interest in older country stars brought him back onto radio stations.
Like Bobbie Gentry, with whom he recorded two Top 40 duets, and his friend Roger Miller, Mr. Campbell was a hybrid stylist, a crossover artist at home in both country and pop music.
Campbell battled substance abuse and alcohol problems during much of his career. He also was a gossip rag mainstay when he got involved with much-younger singer Tanya Tucker in the early 1980s, following his third divorce. It was too tumultuous, and they split. He married his fourth and last wife, Kim, back in 1982. He is survived by her and eight children.