Brain Mourns The Loss Of One Of His Musical Heroes [VIDEO]
I’m not sure what drew me to Glen Campbell. I think it was what everyone else loved about him. The smooth voice, amazing guitar playing skills, and a sense of humor that allowed him to relate so well to his audience. His songs haven’t been played on mainstream country radio for years, although I suspect that will change in the coming days if only for a short while. Glen Campbell was an all time great artist. His music will always be a part of my life, and his passing has saddened me in a way I didn’t expect.
Campbell’s death yesterday at the age of 81 probably didn’t shock anyone. The singer was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011. We’d gotten numerous updates throughout the years about his rapidly declining health. But it doesn’t soften the blow of losing an artist that meant so much to so many. I fell in love with Glen’s music just after I started doing mornings on KHAK back in 1999. I worked at that time with The Bear, and he and I played what we called a ‘Closet Classic’ in the 5 a.m. hour every weekday morning. It was a classic country song usually from the 60’s or 70’s. Being in my mid 20’s, it was a bit of an education for me. I wasn’t familiar with some of the classic country songs as current ones we played. I immediately fell in love with two Glen Campbell classics. ‘By The Time I Get To Phoenix’ and ‘Wichita Lineman’. The orchestration in those songs paired with Glen’s amazing voice turned me on to his music in a heartbeat.
Through the years I immersed myself into the mythology of Glen Campbell. I mean, the guy was a Beach Boy! When Brian Wilson stopped touring in 1964, it was Glen who filled in on the tour and played and sang all of Wilson’s parts. How great of a guitarist was Glen? He was one of the greatest session players of all time. He used to be part of a group of musicians called The Wrecking Crew. They were the best of the best. Glen can be heard playing guitar on over 600 recorded songs. And how about Glen the actor. After John Wayne brought his daughter to visit Glen on his TV show, Wayne offered him an acting gig in an upcoming western. That movie turned out to be ‘True Grit’. Music, TV, movies, yes Glen could do it all.
Glen Campbell had his demons. Drugs and alcohol tortured him during the 70’s and 80’s. He struggled with his addiction into the 2000’s. But later in his life, Glen seemed to find a renewal. In 2008 he released an album of covers. Glen sang songs by the likes of U2 and Green Day and helped a new generation of music lovers discover his music along the way. The other thing that saved Glen were his children. At least three of them joined his touring band during his final years on the road. I got to see him play just once. Glen played Riverside Casino back in 2010. Yes, there were some forgotten lines and mixed up chords, but at the time it was written off as ‘Glen being Glen’. Months later we learned it was Alzheimer’s.
Glen Campbell didn’t shy away from the disease. He became the face of it. He didn’t stop touring after his diagnosis. He did a 15-month farewell tour. He did interviews. He gave a face to a disease that millions of Americans are suffering from every day. He showed that you didn’t have to hide. After watching my grandfather suffer from dementia, it saddened me to watch one of my musical heroes suffer from it too.
After learning of Glen’s passing yesterday, I pulled out all my albums and played them. That’s the great thing about musical legends. They give us their music to remember them by. So play ‘Wichita Lineman’. Put on a slowed down version of the hit song ‘Galveston’ and try not to choke up when Glen sings “I am so afraid of dying…” That’s one thing Glen never was. Afraid. He lived a great life. I am saddened by his death. But my spirits are lifted by his music. Thank you, Glen.
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