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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Glen Campbell's Diagnosis - 2011 Music Moment

I don't normally follow the world of country music.  Truth be told, there are many times in which I've questioned whether or not I was adopted because I seem to be the only member of my family that does not listen to country music on a daily basis.

(Note:  I am NOT adopted.)

Don't get me wrong though.  Country artists do sing some very good songs, and there are even some songs and artists that I really do like.  I think Reba McEntire is fantastic.  I think Jennifer Nettles from Sugarland has a unique voice.  Luke Bryan's got a couple of songs that are quite good, as does Tim McGraw.  And I dare you to listen to Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise" without feeling the urge to dance.

And, I suppose I'd be fine with it if my parents listened to country music that was released within the past five years or so.  But they were always more into the retro style of country.  This meant a lot of George Jones, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Tammy Wynette, George Strait, and Conway Twitty.

Which I suppose wouldn't be bad if it wasn't for all of the twang and the "everyone's dead including my dog and truck" lyrics.  I'm not denying that they had talent - these artists are the foundation behind the current crop of country artists out there now, but they simply just aren't my cup of tea.

But five years ago, one of these legends received some devastating news that essentially put an end to his career...and he made the decision to end his career off with a bang.

When I say the name Glen Campbell - what are the words that you might associate with that name?  Well...I can think of exactly two.

ARTIST:  Glen Campbell
SONG:  Rhinestone Cowboy
ALBUM:  Rhinestone Cowboy
DATE RELEASED:  May 26, 1975

Yep.  You're reading that correctly.  This was a country music crossover - the kind that Shania Twain and Taylor Swift are famous for.  The song "Rhinestone Cowboy" was #1 on the charts in September 1975, dethroning - would you believe - K.C. and the Sunshine Band's "Get Down Tonight"?  Of course, this song was overthrown by David Bowie's "Fame" just two weeks later, but still...having Glen Campbell on the top of the charts in 1975 alongside a disco band and Ziggy Stardust?  That's quite impressive.

Many people would consider "Rhinestone Cowboy" to be Campbell's signature hit.  But he's had so many more since his singing career began all the way back in 1958.  In fact, at one point in his life, he was a member of the band known as "The Champs" - you know, the band that brought us "Tequila"?  He left that band in 1961, but started up his own solo career shortly after that.

A career that launched over 70 studio albums, over 80 single releases, and sales of over 45 million records!  One of his records even went double platinum!  In addition to "Rhinestone Cowboy", Campbell enjoyed success with other songs such as "Wichita Lineman", "Southern Nights", "Galveston", and "Gentle On My Mind". 

And in his later years, he would partake in projects outside of singing.  He was the celebrity host of the Los Angeles Open for thirteen years, he did the voice of Chanticleer in the 1991 animated film "Rock-a-Doodle", and in 2005, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  It's even stated that Glen Campbell was instrumental in helping discover new talent - including Keith Urban and Alan Jackson - whose wife he met on an airplane where she was a stewardess!

But over time, Glen Campbell's health began to take a turn for the worse.  He was having trouble remembering things, he felt disoriented, and he was having issues communicating with people.  The symptoms started happening right around the time he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, and by 2010, they were noticeable enough for his family to seek answers.

In December 2010, it was confirmed that Glen Campbell was suffering from the early effects of Alzheimer's Disease.  And anybody who has ever known anybody who battled it knows just how cruel a disease it can be.

But he chose to wait until June 2011 to make the official announcement because he wanted to make sure he went out his own way.

And this included one final album, and one final tour.  And he didn't have much time to make it happen, as he didn't know how long he would have before the Alzheimer's made it impossible for him to continue.

The final album, "See You There" was released in August 2013, released digitally, and on vinyl and CD.  It was sort of similar to a greatest hits album, as all of the songs on it were classic hits.  But they were re-recorded by the then 70-something Campbell.  In many ways, this was him saying goodbye and thank you to all of the fans who supported him, and it really did become a full circle moment for him.

As for his tour, it began in late 2011, and concluded on November 30, 2012.  For the most part, the tour went very well, although signs of the disease certainly became evident.  Once able to remember his lyrics without any problem at all, he was forced to rely on teleprompters to finish songs.  Much of his newer material was scrapped, as Campbell couldn't remember the chords needed to play the songs.  And sometimes Campbell was so into the concerts that he completely forgot he had Alzheimer's to begin with, and had to be constantly reminded.  It was a bittersweet tour, but I'm sure that anyone who saw him in concert in 2012 knew that just seeing him perform one last time was well worth it. 

He made his final televised appearance at the Grammy Awards on February 12, 2012.  And his final single release was nominated for an Academy Award just last year!

It's sad to say that since Campbell hung up his microphone in late 2012, his disease has gotten worse.  He currently lives in a Nashville facility where he has lost the ability to communicate with his loved ones, and is not even aware when people are speaking to him.  And, to me that just seems so unfair.  As I mentioned before, Alzheimer's is one of the cruelest diseases out there.  It completely destroys a person's mind to the point where only their body seems to remain.  I can't even imagine what his family must be going through.  It must be very difficult.

But you can't argue that since going public with his diagnosis five years ago that Glen Campbell wanted his last few years on Earth to be done his way.  And regarding his career, I'd say mission accomplished. 

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