Glen Campbell, legendary country singer and guitarist, died on Tuesday. His publicist, Tim Plumley, confirmed the cause as his longtime battle with Alzheimer’s. Diagnosed in 2011, Campbell did not let the music stop. Despite the disease advancing, he spoke openly about it, embarked on a 151-night farewell tour, released documentary Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me, and recorded one last album, Adiós. He was 81 years old.
Campbell overflowed with talent, which he poured into music, television and films. He leaves behind a multi-faceted legacy that dates back to his time as a studio musician in the 1960s. At the time, Campbell played guitar for The Wrecking Crew, a collective of instrumentalists that helped bring Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound concept to life.
“He was an incredibly talented guitar player,” bluegrass multi-instrumentalist Charlie Daniels recounted in a news release. “A lot of people have heard Glen Campbell’s brand that don’t even realize it. He was a studio musician in Los Angles for a lot of years and he did a lot of work for a lot of artist we’re very familiar with. He had a great, God-given talent.”
Campbell recorded riffs for big artists such as the Monkees, Nat King Cole, The Beach Boys, and Frank Sinatra. He went on to become a singer-songwriter behind singles like “Gentle on My Mind,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman” and “Southern Nights.” He also had his own variety show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, and lent his songwriting and acting chops to films like True Grit.
“Glen Campbell inspired millions with his TV show, including me,” said “The Wind Beneath My Wings” singer Gary Morris in a news release. “‘Gentle on My Mind’ and ‘Wichita Lineman’ were in my repertoire before I ever started making records.”
Among the numerous highlights of his career, Campbell is most known for singing (and ultimately personifying) “Rhinestone Cowboy.” Originally written by Larry Weiss, the song tells of an aspiring musician who pines for the glitz and glamour of fame. It features Campbell singing cheerily and with a tinge of country and pop, the melding of genres being one of his most influential qualities.
Campbell was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005. Much like his music, Campbell had a personality that left a mark on those he crossed paths with. Throughout his 60-year career, he collaborated with artists from all over the entertainment industry, many of whom reacted to Campbell’s passing with warm memories. Below are just some of the several more anecdotes shared.
Dolly Parton: “Well Glen Campbell was special because he was so gifted. Glen is one of the greatest voices that ever was in the business, and he was one of the greatest musicians. He was a wonderful session musician as well. A lot of people don’t realize that, but he could play anything. And he could play it really well. So he was just extremely talented. I will always love you, Glen!”
Duane Allen of The Oak Ridge Boys: “I think probably, the sweetest time I had with Glen Campbell is when I would be with him, pitching songs to each other. Glen Campbell was one of the great song men I’ve ever met in my life. Glen taught me so much about the importance of finding great songs.”
Brenda Lee: “I had the pleasure of inducting Glen into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He could write it, sing it and play it. He was a triple threat. He never forgot his friends and made room for them on any project could. He was one of the finest musicians I’ve ever known and certainly the prowess of his entertainment legacy goes without saying that. He was our golden boy. We loved him and the world loved him.”
Billy Ray Cyrus: “Glen Campbell was such a huge influence on me. Growing up, I studied his writing, songs and how he was an ‘entertainer’s entertainer.’ Along with Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner, Glen Campbell was one of the first to parlay country music into mainstream television and broaden the entire country music fan base across the globe. Ride on Rhinestone Cowboy. God Bless.”