Earlier this year, Glen Campbell wished his friends and fans a touching Adios on his sixty-fourth and final studio album. It was the cathartic culmination of six years in which the legendary vocalist bravely brought his struggle with Alzheimer’s to the public eye, embarked on a yearlong Farewell Tour, and recorded his final sessions as heard not only on Adios, but on Ghost on the Canvas, See You There and the soundtrack to the touching documentary Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me. Earlier today, Glen Campbell passed away at the age of 81, but not before leaving behind one of the richest legacies in all of American popular music.
Campbell was among the most significant artists to abolish the boundaries between country-and-western and pop, infusing all of his performances – whether on his beloved guitar or with his underrated vocals – with deep soul and truthful emotion. His tenure as a member of the Los Angeles “Wrecking Crew” of musicians saw him play on hundreds of hits by artists ranging from Frank Sinatra to The Beach Boys, and he even had the chops to briefly sub for Brian Wilson in The Beach Boys. (Wilson’s gift to him, in return, was the striking and sublime “Guess I’m Dumb.”) Whether bridging the generation gap by powerfully interpreting the songs of Jimmy Webb (“By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston”) or welcoming a diverse array of artists like Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, Linda Ronstadt, and Johnny Cash to television’s Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, the singer-musician had an ear and a knack for beautiful music regardless of genre. He recorded albums of pop, folk, bluegrass, country, gospel, holiday songs, and even standards with the orchestra of Nelson Riddle, and brought his honeyed voice and subtle interpretive skills to all.
Having battled personal demons in the public eye for much of his life, Campbell bravely made the decision to live his final years openly, as well. Valiantly aided by his family, he cast a frank spotlight on the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease in his final years. The Grammy Award Lifetime Achievement recipient, Country Music Hall of Famer and perennial Rhinestone Cowboy never stopped giving back to his fans. I had the great privilege of penning the liner notes for Real Gone Music’s 2015 collection, Glen Campbell – The Complete Capitol Christmas Recordings. Listening to that familiar voice sing such beautiful songs of faith, hope, family and love, it’s possible to hear the truest and purest essence of Glen Travis Campbell. Though he may be gone, his music remains powerfully and passionately still on the line.