Famous country singer Glen Campbell, 81, died on Tuesday. Campbell, an accomplished guitarist and Country Music Hall of Fame inductee, passed away in a Nashville care facility after years of struggling with Alzheimer’s disease.
Campbell, who once described himself not as a country singer but as a “country boy who sings,” was responsible for hits as “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Wichita Lineman,” and “By The Time I Get to Phoenix.” Rolling Stone called him the singer who fused country and pop.
The country singer is survived by his wife, Kim Campbell, and eight children from two marriages.
Glen Campbell hit stardom with his ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’
Campbell’s family announced his passing in a statement.
“It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved husband, father, grandfather, and legendary singer and guitarist, Glen Travis Campbell, at the age of 81, following his long and courageous battle with Alzheimer’s disease,” said the statement.
Campbell hit stardom in 1975 when his song, “Rhinestone Cowboy,” topped both the country and pop charts. Historian John Rumble from the Country Music Hall of Fame said Campbell had something special.
“When he was on stage and started to sing, you knew there was a star on stage,” said Rumble, according to NPR. “I don’t know how to explain it. It’s an aura. It’s a feeling. You knew this was somebody special.”
He was a self-taught guitarist who started working as a studio musician in Los Angeles. Rumble said Campbell couldn’t read music, but he could play anything. Working as part of the famous “Wrecking Crew,” a group of studio players who backed stars on many hits on the 1950s and 1960s, he played guitar parts for records by The Monkees, Jan and Dean, Frank Sinatra, and the Beach Boys.
Campbell even replaced the Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson for six months on tour. Regarding that experience, he once said it was fun, but that he didn’t want to spend the rest of his musical career playing bass and “singing the high part.”
Campbell’s final studio album was released earlier this year
Once his solo career kicked off, Campbell started working with songwriter Jimmy Webb, and they became musical partners. Webb said Campbell never got enough credit for his contributions beyond performing.
“Nobody compared with him when it came to picking a song and then arranging it,” said Webb. “He left his stamp on whatever material he did.”
His success eventually led him to some film and TV gigs, including a show hosted by Campbell, called “Glen Campbell’s Good Time Hour.” However, he began struggling with alcohol and cocaine and ended up divorcing his first wife.
After several years he got his life back in order and continued performing across the country. In 2011, he announced he had Alzheimer’s disease. Instead of retiring immediately, he planned a tour and played shows around the country with his band, which included some of his children.
Earlier this year, he released “Adiós,” his final studio album. In it, he compiled some cover songs by Bob Dylan, Harry Nilsson, and others, which his daughter described as his “go-to songs.”
“Almost every time he sat down with a guitar, these were his go-to songs,” his daughter, Ashley Campbell, told Rolling Stone. “They were much engrained in his memory – like, so far back that they were one of the last things he started losing.”