Glen Camp­bell

As big as they come for a gen­er­a­tion

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

FOR THOSE of a cer­tain age, Glen Camp­bell was as big as they get. Rolling Stone mag­a­zine said he sold more records in 1968 than the Bea­tles. No, re­ally. The Bea­tles, 1968.

To see the kinds of peo­ple he worked with, look at a Bill­board Hot 100 list from the 1960s. Or an early 1970s Casey Kasem count­down. Did he re­ally play on Pet Sounds and tour with the Beach Boys? He played var­i­ous in­stru­ments for Elvis, Frank, Merle and Dean. And for those who need last names, for the likes of Bobby Darin and Ricky Nel­son.

Was he a big­ger mu­sic star or tele­vi­sion star? That might de­pend on your age. For those who saw him as a con­tem­po­rary of Elvis, they might re­mem­ber the nights “Galve­ston” or “Wi­chita Line­man” played in the back­ground at the spring dances. For those a lit­tle younger, they might bet­ter re­mem­ber the seem­ingly end­less tele­vi­sion spe­cials he hosted in the 1970s. With all his friends and con­nec­tions in the busi­ness, he could get pert­n­ear any­body on his tele­vi­sion show(s). Johnny Cash, Wil­lie Nel­son, Neil Di­a­mond. And, yes, the Bea­tles.

He was a lit­tle bit coun­try, and a lit­tle bit rock ’n’ roll. OK, a lot coun­try. But his work charted on the pop charts, too, mostly es­pe­cially “Rhine­stone Cow­boy” and Allen Tous­saint’s “South­ern Nights.” To even hear them now is to be taken back to a more in­no­cent time, when the kids stayed out un­til the street lights came on, and they didn’t even have to stay within the sound of mama’s voice.

We haven’t even men­tioned True

Grit yet.

Glen Travis Camp­bell was born in Bill­stown, Arkansas, in 1936. (That’s be­tween McCaskill and Pike City. Or be­tween Okolona and Nashville. Peo­ple around Prescott could show you the way.) The pa­pers say he was the sev­enth son in a fam­ily of 12 kids. And he didn’t want to share­crop, so he left school and Arkansas at the age of 14 and moved west to play mu­sic. Here’s a line from Rolling Stone that’ll shed some light on his early suc­cess:

“In 1963 alone he ap­peared on 586 cuts, and count­less more through­out the decade, in­clud­ing the Byrds’ ‘Mr. Tam­bourine Man,’ Elvis Pres­ley’s ‘Viva Las Ve­gas,’ Merle Hag­gard’s ‘Mama Tried’ and the Righ­teous Broth­ers’ ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feel­ing.’”

That was just while he was work­ing for other peo­ple. Then his solo ca­reer took off. Then cooled. Then took off again. Then cooled again. Call it the ups and many downs of be­ing a mu­si­cian. Some­times every­thing’s a hit, some­times noth­ing you can put to­gether is good enough for the pub­lic. Glen Camp­bell had his per­sonal ups and downs, too, and like with most celebri­ties, it was in all the pa­pers.

But few things be­came him like his last years, dur­ing which he went pub­lic with his strug­gle against that hor­ri­ble dis­ease Alzheimer’s but con­tin­ued to tour as long as he could. All the while al­low­ing a film crew to doc­u­ment his strug­gles.

Glen Camp­bell, of Bill­stown, Ark., died this week at the age of 81. Leav­ing be­hind thousands of records, dozens of hit songs, and years of tele­vi­sion shows. Not to men­tion many fond mem­o­ries for a gen­er­a­tion that still wishes it could stay out un­til the street lights come on.

Glen Camp­bell in 1975

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