Country-music world says goodbye to icon
NASHVILLE — Glen Campbell, the affable superstar singer of Rhinestone Cowboy and Wichita Lineman whose appeal spanned country, pop, television and movies, died Tuesday, his family said. He was 81. Campbell’s family said the singer died in Nashville and publicist Sandy Brokaw confirmed the news. No cause was immediately given.
Campbell announced in June 2011 he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and that it was in its early stages at that time.
“Glen is one of the greatest voices there ever was in the business and he was one of the greatest musicians,” said Dolly Parton in a video statement.
“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.”
Tributes poured in on social media.
“Thank you Glen Campbell for sharing your talent with us for so many years May you rest in peace my friend You will never be forgotten,” wrote Charlie Daniels.
One of Campbell’s daughters, Ashley, said she was heartbroken. “I owe him everything I am, and everything I ever will be. He will be remembered so well and with so much love,” she wrote on Twitter.
In the late 1960s and into the ’70s, the Arkansas native was everywhere with his boyish face, wavy hair and friendly tenor. He won five Grammys, sold more than 45 million records, had 12 gold albums and 75 chart hits, including No. 1 songs with Rhinestone Cowboy and Southern Nights.
His performance of the title song from the 1969 film True Grit, in which he played a Texas Ranger alongside Oscar winner John Wayne, received an Academy Award nom. He was voted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005.
Campbell was among a wave of country crossover stars that included Johnny Cash, Roy Clark and Kenny Rogers, and like many contemporaries, he enjoyed success on TV. Campbell had a weekly audience of 50 million people for the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour ,on CBS from 1969 to 1972.
The documentary Glen Campbell ... I’ll Be Me came out in 2014. The film about Campbell’s 2011-12 farewell tour offers a poignant look at his decline from Alzheimer’s while showcasing his virtuoso guitar chops that continued to shine as his mind unraveled.
A sharecropper’s son who was one of 12 children, he was born outside of Delight, Ark., and grew up revering country music stars such as Hank Williams. “I’m not a country singer per se,” Campbell once said. “I’m a country boy who sings.”
He was 4 when he learned to play guitar. As a teenager, anxious to escape a life of farm work and unpaid bills, he moved to Albuquerque to join his uncle’s band. By his early 20s, he had formed his own group, the Western Wranglers. He opened for the Doors and sang and played bass with the Beach Boys. In 1966, Campbell played on the Beach Boys’ classic Pet Sounds album. By the late ’60s, he was a performer on his own.
He was married four times and had eight children. As he would confide in painful detail, Campbell suffered for his fame and made others suffer as well. He drank heavily, used drugs and indulged in a turbulent relationship with country singer Tanya Tucker in the early 1980s.
He is survived by his wife, Kim; their three children, Cal, Shannon and Ashley; and his children from previous marriages, Debby, Kelli, Travis, Kane and Dillon.