October 9, 2011

Glen Campbell, despite Alzheimer's disease, gave a concert last Thursday.

And it was quite beautiful, and not in any kind of maudlin way:
Campbell was the same funny, relaxed, charismatic guy he's always been, and his fingers still rolled out those smooth Stratocaster lines that took songs along winding instrumental roads before graceful resolution. Or, as Campbell humorously acknowledged after a particularly nuanced solo, “I've got a few licks left — I've been practicing.”



Those roads were rockier, though; throughout the hour-and-a-half set, his fingers at times stumbled, as did his mind, which on a few occasions lost track of lyrics on the TelePrompTer, and, in banter between a number of songs, absent-mindedly dwelled on a particular quote from Minnie Pearl. “I'm proud to be here,” he said, before adding, “I'm proud to be anywhere.”

Those details are offered not to shine light on the darkness, but to offer an environment in which to illuminate the beauty and warmth at the heart of the evening, and to better appreciate the inexhaustible spirit that runs through certain mortals, despite the odds. The fumbles on Thursday didn't detract from, but added to, the wonder of it all, because the misfires were inevitably followed by long runs of chrome-toned solos... It's a real thing, the superhighway that connects Campbell's muse to his fingertips....

The magic was in the way Campbell, his family, and the crowd, many of whom had grown up with the singer, respected the muse despite its decaying state. How they defiantly, beautifully kept that conduit to the sublime open wide enough to deliver a clear, honest message about both the important and unimportant things, about how one becomes another as time passes.
ADDED: I thought this was extremely interesting, in People Magazine:
"I have Alzheimer's?" he asks Kim, 53, his wife of 29 years... "Well, doggone ... what's that?" Kim gently reminds him that it's the reason he's been having trouble remembering things, but Campbell prefers a different explanation.... "God just cleared a lot of things out... It was crowded up there. I've been trying to get rid of that crap for years."

30 comments:

chickenlittle said...

A personal favorite: link.

sydney said...

That's very sweet. A nice, uplifting thing to read this morning. Thank you. May we all have families as supportive as his in our decline.

edutcher said...

It explains a thing or two.

Sorry he's got the disease. He was one of the great performers of the late 60s that crossed just about every demographic imaginable.

He did a lot of work for Capitol as a studio musician. At one point, he was an unofficial member of both the Beach Boys (toured with them in Brian Wilson's stead) and the Kingston Trio in their heyday.

Chase said...

Glen Campbell is my all time favorite. He was kind enough to correspond with me in several letters about 10 years ago. He is a kind and generous man and an exceptional talent, far beyond almost anyone in today's music world.

Galveston is still my favorite song - I listened to that album as a kid everyday for over a year. But Glen's rendition of Wichita Lineman has such a haunting quality that I believe it better defines him than any other song he's done. He wrote me that he believes it is one of his "3 or 4 best" recordings.

God Bless Glen Campbell and his family.

rhhardin said...

Blanchot, on Holderlin's madness, the purity which his exemplary rectitude assured him.

Curious George said...

While not from the concert mentioned, here is Glenn and daughter pairing up on Dueling Banjos from last year. Nice.

Michael K said...

He was also a pretty good golfer. He was involved in the development of the Lynx irons, the first peripherally weighted irons.

Ann Althouse said...

I read an article about him recently in People Magazine. Can't find it on line. Wish I'd take a photo of the quote I'm trying to remember. (I was reading the magazine at the beauty parlor.)

Talking about the loss of his mental functioning/memories, he said something like: I'd been trying to get rid of that stuff for a long time.

Our brains torment us as they function on a high level. We don't want to lose any functioning, not permanently anyway, but if it ever happens, it is possible to maintain a positive attitude about it. I got the impression that's what Campbell was doing.

He does have music in a way that most of us do not. That may last in a way that is very helpful to living well through catastrophic decline.

edutcher said...

Thank you for that. Nice to know he's still got a good outlook.

Craig said...

I was twenty when I left Galveston.

Chase said...

As I walk these narrow streets

Where a million passing feet have trod before me

With my guitar in my hand

Suddenly I realize nobody knows me

Where yesterday the multitudes screamed and cried my name out for a song

Now the streets are empty

And the crowds, they’ve all gone home

With the rain on my face there’s no place that I belong

And my whole life consists of a story and a poem and a song



Glen Campbell
Song "Folk Singer"
Album "Try a Little Kindness"

ndspinelli said...

I love the People Magazine disclaimer. "I was @ the hair salon, dentist office, etc." It's ok to read fluff. Maybe that's a reaction to my old man who wouldn't let us kids read comic books.

A. Shmendrik said...

Someone posted Frank Sinatra's last public performance online a few years ago. It was recorded in ~ February 1995 at the awards dinner which concluded his annual charity golf tournament in Palm Springs. I think there were 7 songs, all of which he had been singing for at least 30 years. You could hear gaps in the delivery and it sounded like an old guy trying to keep up with the teleprompter (which is what he resorted to at the end of his performing years.) If you are a fan of his music and have not heard this recording, do yourself a favor and do not listen to it. At the end, after performing "The Best is Yet to Come", you can hear the emcee, Tom Driesen, calling him over, saying "No, Frank, Frank, this way,... we have some people we want you to meet..." and all you can imagine is this guy going stage left when he should have gone stage right. Some people don't know when to stop, it's nice to know that Campbell has not reached that point yet.

Peter Hoh said...

That's a very nice review. There's beauty that shines through that isn't coming from perfection.

Viewing the photo gallery that accompanied the article, I did a double-take at the fifth photo. Sure looks a lot like Susan Boyle, don't you think?

Roger Sweeny said...

My mother-n-law had dementia, and we did a lot of research to try to make her life (and our's!) better. Music usually sticks around longer than a lot of the "higher" mental functioning.

EDH said...

Does he start his live shows the way he started his TV show?

"Howdy Folks, I'm Glen Campbell!" over Gentle on My Mind.

As a small child I used to love that. And his hair.

About Jimmy Webb who wrote so many of the Campbell hits:

Webb and Campbell had first met during the production of a General Motors commercial. Webb arrived at the recording session with his Beatle-length hair and approached the conservative singer, who looked up from his guitar and said, "Get a haircut."

Fred4Pres said...

I did not he was ill. I hope the progression is slow, and that one day there is a cure.

Nobody Knows That I Am A Dog!!! said...

Glen Campbell is a hell of a guitar player. There is a great video of him and Jerry Reed on ytube battling it out. A very talented man.

Paul said...

God Bless him.

I really liked alot of songs.

Especially 'Dreams of an Everyday Housewife'. I always get choked up singing that while driving.

edutcher said...

Nobody Knows That I Am A Dog!!! said...

Glen Campbell is a hell of a guitar player. There is a great video of him and Jerry Reed on ytube battling it out. A very talented man.

The two of them with John Hartford on banjo did some great sets on his show.

Not the Kingston Trio, but damned good.

Curious George said...

"Nobody Knows That I Am A Dog!!! said...
Glen Campbell is a hell of a guitar player. There is a great video of him and Jerry Reed on ytube battling it out. A very talented man."

He started as a session guitarist. He played on the recording of Tequila. No Chet Atkins or Roy Clark, but yep, good.

ken in sc said...

Didn't he steal Mack Davis's wife?

Gary Rosen said...

Chase,

I'm also a big fan of "Wichita Lineman". And as Curious George noted he played on the well-known recording of "Tequila" by the Champs.

Jim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
poppa india said...

I especially like Wichita Lineman-when I started work at the phone company, everyone i told hummed or sang the first few words of it. He's had a great career, hope it ends as peacefully as possible for him.

A. Shmendrik said...

ken in sc said...
Didn't he steal Mack Davis's wife?


Dunno.

I would not kick his 4th wife out of bed for eating crackers, if you know what I'm sayin'. Just having a 4th wife is an accomplishment, and she's a babe.

Ralph L said...

I hadn't heard "beauty parlor" since my grandmother died in 1992.

Glen sits up in hospital bed:
"Howdy Folks, I'm Glen Campbell!"

Cher, as nurse:
"Sorry, we have no cure for that."

Craig said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0xTEQV0-3c&feature=related

Craig said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEFAoZDlb_M&feature=related

Here's a cut from GC's first album, all instrumental acoustic 12 string, backed up by Roy Clark on banjo.

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