Glen Campbell: We’re Gonna Miss You

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When first deciding to write something about Glen Campbell and the most recent documentary chronicling his life, recent tour and his heartbreaking battle with Alzheimer’s “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me”, I didn’t want to be just mentioning what a the countless number of articles and movie reviews have been saying everywhere over the last month or so. I’ve enjoyed many of those articles and the movie reviews have been nearly all positive or at least praiseworthy of Glen Campbell and his family’s dealing with the disease that affects millions. Campbell’s most recent song being featured in the film is called “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”. The song and video for it are quite moving and something you don’t always see when it comes to one nearing their final bow in life.

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The song title reads “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” as its meaning depicts this horrible sad disease, so I felt a need to express “We’re Gonna Miss You”, based on some personal memories of Glen Campbell, his music, and his display of courage at road’s end.

To begin with, I want to say my history as of fan of his music goes back quite a ways as it does with so many. As a child born in the 1960’s Mississippi and growing up in the 1970’s, for me, Glen Campbell seemed to be everywhere – for starters his music, TV show, and quite frankly much of his life being told in the media circus of the tabloids at grocery store checkouts. True, Glen Campbell had his flaws and I’m not here to point those out – that’s been done for years of a man whom seemed to find his way into the news. But, the Glen Campbell story is much much more.

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The Music

There’s no reason to give a long easily accessed bio detailing Campbell’s rise to fame, but I must mention several of the highlights and things I remember fondly. The songs that made him famous are lasting favorites. The John Hartford penned “Gentle on My Mind” (1967 Grammy winner: “Best Country Vocal Performance – Male” and “Best Country Recording”), “By The Time I Get To Phoenix (Grammy winner: “Best Vocal Performance – Male” and “Best Contemporary Performance – Male”), “Galveston” and “Wichita Lineman” (Rolling Stone magazine listed it as one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time at #192) Songwriter, Jimmy Webb was on a roll back in the 1960’s while Campbell scored some of his biggest hits from Webb’s songs. 1968 saw Campbell’s album “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” won as that year’s Grammy for “Album of the Year” (the first Country Album to do so and it was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2004) By the middle of the 1970’s, Campbell had scored several big hits and was simply a household name – thanks in part to his TV variety music show “Glen Campbell’s Goodtime Hour” that ran from 1969-72. The popular show attracted guests such as Johnny Cash, The Monkees, Neil Diamond, Linda Ronstadt, and even The Beatles (on film). Also the memorable role in the Oscar winning and hugely popular “True Grit” with John Wayne and a number of television appearances on a variety of shows helped cement Campbell into Pop Culture. One of those TV show appearances provided one of the all time best facial expressions from an Awards show host when singer Charlie Rich took out a lighter and lit the envelope that read John Denver as Country Music’s Entertainer of the Year. When the TV cameras cut back to Campbell – as they say, “priceless”.

Update: Glen Campbell won a Grammy for Country Song of the Year in 2015 for “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” and The Band Perry won a Grammy for Country Duo/Group Performance for “Gentle on My Mind” (both from Glen Campbell’s “I’ll Be Me” Soundtrack EP). He also received an Oscar nomination for “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” for original song featured in a Motion Picture.

 

G Campbell - Phoenix1868 Grammy Award-winning Album of the Year: Glen Campbell’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”
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In 1975 Campbell scored his most successful hit of his career……

I’ve been walkin’ these streets so long
Singin’ the same old song
I know every crack in these dirty sidewalks of Broadway
Where hustle’s the name of the game
And nice guys get washed away like the snow and the rain
There’s been a load of compromisin’
On the road to my horizon
But I’m gonna be where the lights are shinin’ on me…..”

Yes, “Rhinestone Cowboy” was one of the decades most remembered and famous songs. It went to #1 on both the Country and Pop Charts simultaneously (at the time, a first since 1961’s “Big Bad John” by Jimmy Dean). It was the #2 Pop Single of 1975, and for those wondering, just behind Captain and Tennille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together” at #1 for the year. A few things I personally remember about the song: first and above all, as a child, it was my younger brother’s “favorite song ever!” (who once got furious when Campbell sang the song live with then girlfriend, Tanya Tucker, and changed the lyrics to “and cowgirls too.”) and secondly, around this time we began thinking an uncle of ours looked very much like Glen Campbell. Maybe it was the sideburns, but to be honest, he actually does somewhat have a resemblance.

Campbell followed the success of “Rhinestone Cowboy” with his version of Allen Toussaint ‘s “Southern Nights”, which also went to #1.

Recently, while passing through the small town of Richton, MS on my way to Nashville, I pulled aside to a former location of a Sunflower Grocery. It made me smile, because I fondly remember often passing the store with my family on the way back to the Gulf Coast many years ago. Why bring this up? “Sunflower” was also the name of a Campbell song around that time, and out of boredom, I would usually break into singing the song every time we passed through Richton and the Sunflower. On this most recent occasion, while thinking about this article, I just decided to put the song on and listen to it as I drove away. Accustomed to traveling at night, the highway was empty around 2 a.m. in the small town of Richton, so I turned the speakers up for a song I might not commonly do so.

 

Glen-Campbell-Gentle-On-My-MindGlen Campbell’s “Gentle on My Mind” won a Grammy in 1967 for ‘Best Country Performance- Male’.
Forty-plus years later in 2015, The Band Perry won a Grammy for same song which was featured on the Glen Campbell I’ll Be Me” Soundtrack EP.

Campbell: The Legendary Session Man

For years I’ve been searching the history of recordings made popular in the 1960’s. One of my all time favorite albums will likely always be “Pet Sounds” by The Beach Boys. It’s widely known, Glen Campbell went on tour replacing Brian Wilson for a period in 1964-65, but did you know Campbell played guitar on many of the tracks on the Beach Boy’s all-time classic, “Pet Sounds”? Yes, for a moment in time, Glen Campbell was a Beach Boy. But more than that and above all, he can easily be considered as one of the most valued and used session sidemen of the early 1960’s. He performed for some of the biggest artists and music producers of the era. Alone or as part of the legendary “The Wrecking Crew”, his studio guitar work can be found on a diverse variety of music. Names like Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Ricky Nelson, Elvis Presley, Jan & Dean, Dean Martin, The Monkees, Nancy Sinatra, Merle Haggard, Nat King Cole and others featured the work of Glen Campbell. Obviously, producers like Phil Spector and The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson and the diverse of group of artists saw something extremely special with Campbell’s ability as a gifted musician.

wrecking crewAs a member of the legendary group of studio musicians “The Wrecking Crew”, Campbell help make music history in multiple genres.

I can’t stress enough how many songs he performed on – it boggles the mind. In a 2011 interview, he says he played rhythm on basically everything. That statement has plenty of merit – in 1963 alone, he appeared on nearly 600 cuts and the years to follow saw the list of songs climb higher. “Mr. Tamborine Man” by The Byrds, “Viva Las Vegas” by Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried”, “Strangers in the Night” by Frank Sinatra to The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” are samples of songs featuring Campbell. It didn’t matter what genre or setting, he was usually there recording. One amazing fact, Campbell unable to read music, would hear the song once, and he had it. Yes to emphasize, the fellow musicians would play the song one time for him and he fell right in line.

Campbell’s extensive work as a sideman should be remembered, cherished and honored. I, for some time, have believed he alone, or as part of the Wrecking Crew should be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the sideman category. This is likely debatable for a number of reasons, but still worthy of consideration in my viewpoint and I’m sticking by it.

Glen Campbell has received an extensive list of honors including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012, several Grammy Awards (10 *as of 2015), both ACM (Academy of Country Music) and CMA (Country Music Association) awards including one for 1968’s Entertainer of the Year. In 2005, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and 2007, as part of the Wrecking Crew, was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame. For over 50 years of making music (excluding the music he recorded as a session musician), he has released over 70 albums, 80 different charting songs and sold over 45 million records. A long way from performing with his uncle’s band, Dick Bills and the Sandia Mountain Boys and his own band, The Western Wranglers in the 1950’s.

Since his days growing up in the small Arkansas community of Billstown near Delight, he has delighted millions of fans with his music. Leaving his home heading west and eventually to Los Angeles, would help Campbell become one of the most known entertainers of the final half of the 20th century.

There’s little reason to go into his commercial misfires and low points in Campbell’s life – we all have read the headlines. Celebrity or not, things in life happen and not always the best. Despite that, Campbell’s influence was highly considered amongst many up and coming artists that followed him. A point mentioned in the latest film documentary by several popular musicians.

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Following his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, a reemergence of Glen Campbell began to take place. 2008 saw the release of the new album “Meet Glen Campbell” which covered the music of artists such as U2, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Jackson Browne, even Green Day and Foo Fighters. In 2011, he released his brilliant album “Ghost on the Canvas”. The album featured collaborations with Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins, Jakob Dylan, Chris Isaak, Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielson and Paul Westerburg.

Patrick Doyle wrote a sensational article in Rolling Stone magazine about Campbell in 2011 entitled: “Glen Campbell’s Long Goodbye” which spoke of his illustrious career, his final album and sadly, his battle with Alzheimer’s. The article mentions the praise from many including fellow Wrecking Crew musician and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Leon Russell, when referring to Campbell: “He’s the best guitar player I’d heard before or since.”

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“Ghost on the Canvas” was my favorite of album of 2011 and Patrick Doyle’s interview was one of Rolling Stone magazine’s best in recent years. The album (along with “By The Time I Get To Phoenix) is unsurpassed in Campbell’s long and enduring career. The album and “Goodbye Tour” (which three of his children joined him in his backup band) demonstrates his courage and brave look on his life following his announcement in 2011 of having Alzheimer’s.

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Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me

When I first saw a screening of the documentary directed by James Keach (director of the Johnny Cash biopic “Walk The Line”), I wanted to see it before reading anything about the film so as not to cloud my judgement. For that matter, I’m usually that way about most films and music. The one thing I had heard was the song “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”, his final studio recording. The five song soundtrack (from Big Machine Records) features that song, “Wichita Lineman” and “Better Place” performed by Campbell; “Home Again” by his daughter Ashley; and The Band Perry’s version of “Gentle On My Mind”.

The film shows Campbell and his family’s strong courage mixed with well placed humor that is so true to Glen Campbell’s public character and persona. There are times you smile and other times moved to tears, but what we are witnessing is the man’s final bow and goodbye to all. The film ‘s tough subject is important to be told and a true test of one’s courage in dealing with such a horrible disease that affects millions. Whether it be a celebrity such as Campbell or not, awareness of the disease and its affects on the afflicted person or their family members and friends should obviously be told. Here, with this film, it’s done in a manner that we, the audience, can easily be pulled into due, in strong part, to who the film is about. As Larry Rohter, from The New York Times, says of Campbell and the film – “A Farewell to His Fans and Himself”.

The film chronicles Campbell’s final tour as the disease slowly worsens. This intimate look at the well known entertainer’s struggles with Alzheimer’s is something past generations didn’t see displayed on screen for the world to witness – a celebrity being filmed in such a fragile and sad state of descension. So is seeing this movie just some sort of voyeuristic look into some celebrity’s end of life or a reality styled made for TV special? Far from it! It truly humanizes Glen Campbell. In a pop culture world that refuses to show the downsize of aging or despair, we are here witnessing one’s best attempt at dignity as he slowly leaves this final stage. Watching Campbell, the entertainer, perform his shows during the Goodbye Tour using teleprompters to feed him his lines, but still being able to be “Glen Campbell” the entertainer we’ve known for years is amazing. The music is so deeply ingrained that he was able to perform and deliver night after night despite a gradual decline. Picking up a guitar and doing what he has always loved…..well, I can’t say enough about it.

The documentary has been well received by a long list of film critics and film goers. I believe whether you’ve been a fan of Glen Campbell’s music or not, it’s a must-see! The truth is we all know or will know someone with Alzheimers and the way it is handled and demonstrated by Campbell and his family is bold with dignity attached.

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Remembering Glen Campbell- We’re Gonna Miss You

Of course, earlier I mentioned examples of Campbell’s part in my own life growing up in Mississippi. Those memories are a part of my life that I’ll always remember, even though they are just a small fraction of many memories of days gone by. “The Goodbye Tour”, his latest couple albums (“Meet Glen Campbell” and “Ghost on the Canvas”) and this most recent documentary has renewed my interest and reminded me of several things that I haven’t thought about with much depth in years.

“Lost” is a sad word, but “Remembering” is such a word that counteracts sadness in a positive way. As lost affects us all, yet reflecting on memories of even the smallest of things as mentioned earlier, impacts who we are as we travel through our lives.

Sure, I never met Glen Campbell, but in a small way he actually finds a place in a lifetime of memories. In directing this article to Glen Campbell, for that as with many of us, “WE’RE GONNA MISS YOU!”

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© The Southland Music Line. 2014. All rights reserved

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