Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Glen Campbell, 1936-2017, R.I.P.

Singer, songwriter, musician, actor, and television host Glen Campbell has died at the age of eighty-one from Alzheimer's disease.

I was not quite twelve when I first became aware of Glen Campbell, several years into his career, via his hosting 1968's The Summer Brothers Smothers Show, a summer replacement for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. In 1969, his show The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour debuted, and ran until 1972.

Campbell had a long string of hits during the 1960s and 1970s. The first lines of several of those songs stick in my memory.

"It's knowing that your door is always open and your path is free to walk..." ("Gentle on my Mind," written by John Hartford.)

"I am a lineman for the county, and I drive the main road..." ("Wichita Lineman.")

"By the time I get to Phoenix, she'll be rising..." (It shouldn't surprise you to learn that that was the first line of a song called -- what else? -- "By the Time I Get to Phoenix.")

"Galveston, oh Galveston, I still hear your sea winds blowin'..." ("Galveston," of course.)

"One day, little girl, the sadness will leave your face, as soon as you've won your fight to get justice done..." ("True Grit," the title song from the [original] movie of the same name.)

"I've been walking these streets so long, singing the same old song..." ("Rhinestone Cowboy.")

Of course, he had many other hits, including "Where's the Playground Susie," "Southern Nights," "Dreams of the Everyday Housewife," "Honey Come Back," and numerous others. Dearer to my own heart are three lesser-known songs which found their way into my record collection, "I Knew Jesus (Before He Was a Star),"* "Try a Little Kindness," and his medley of two pop standards "Don't Pull Your Love / Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye."

(*I never understood why "I Knew Jesus (Before He Was a Star)" wasn't called "I Knew Jesus (Before He Was a Superstar)," since that's the actual line in the song, as repeated several times, and it was a reference to the whole "Jesus Christ Superstar" phenomenon of the  early 1970s!)

Glen's music and comedy variety show was usually pretty light-hearted. As I remember it (and I'm going totally on memory here), it used to begin with Glen and some other musicians -- I believe John Hartford was one of them -- standing up at various places in the audience, with Glen himself saying "Hi! I'm Glen Campbell!" In occasional later episodes, other performers or guest stars would stand and claim to be Campbell, for humorous effect.

I remember a lot of jokes about Campbell's hair during his TV show. His hairdo looked somewhat indestructible back then, perhaps due to an excessive amount of hairspray. In fact, I recall one episode in particular where guest Paul Lynde accused Glen of being in a bad mood, and said "What's the matter, did you fall down and crack your hair?"

Campbell is also credited with helping to launch the careers of performers such as Jerry Reed and Anne Murray. (I suppose I can forgive him for that second one...! I also suppose I can forgive the song "Rhinestone Cowboy" for purportedly inspiring the god-awful 1984 movie Rhinestone!)

As sad as it is, Campbell's passing is not really a shock. He'd announced that he had Alzheimer's, that insidious s.o.b. of a disease, in 2011. But it's still quite unfortunate to lose someone whose music and television presence was so much a part of my life during my early adolescence. In fact, I hadn't realized quite how much that show meant to my Sunday night viewing habits until news of his death was released and I started recalling all his hits.

With John Wayne and Kim Darby in 1969's True Grit.

With Tom and Dick Smothers. Love that outfit, Glen!

Another Smothers Brothers photo, obviously from the same scene as
the previous image, where Tom musses the famous Campbell hair!

With Elvis and Priscilla Presley.

With the Beach Boys. Glen toured with them and played on their innovative "Pet Sounds" album.

With Tanya Tucker. The two were a couple for a few years in the '80s,
and their somewhat rocky relationship occasionally made tabloid headlines.

A more recent photo of Glen.

With Dean Martin.

With Merle Haggard.

With David Cassidy.

With Cher.

With Joe Namath in 1970's Norwood, in which Campbell was reunited with his True Grit co-star Kim Darby.

With The Summer Brothers Smothers Show regulars Pat Paulsen and iconic hippie Leigh French.

Yep, the line is "I knew Jesus before He was a superstar," but the song's title is...

Thanks for your time.


  1. I am actually sad but also happy that he passed away because Alzheimer's is such a horrible disease not only for him but his loved ones who had to watch him slowly fade away. In fact, they just said a couple of weeks back, that he wasn't shown the Grammy he won and he had no clue what it was. The one pic of him with David Cassidy is sad since he, too, is suffering from the disease.

    1. That occurred to me right after I included the photo of Glen with David Cassidy. Damned shame about anyone who has what I called "that insidious s.o.b. of a disease."

  2. Weird about the song title indeed. His hair back then does look like it could stop a tank haha

    Alzheimer's is a nasty disease indeed. He sure had quite the career.

  3. I always liked him back in the day. From everything I read, he sounds like he was a genuinely nice guy who was a giver.

    Hopefully this link will work. It's a really nice tribute by Jimmy Webb here on Facebook.

    1. Thanks for the link. Jimmy Webb is amazing. If he'd written nothing but "The Worst That Could Happen," I'd still love his work! Funny how he wrote "I am too upset to write very well" about Glen. I don't agree. It was a great piece.

  4. As you mentioned his hits, I could hear each one. I think I know every word to those songs. I can't see several of your photos. Maybe my sight is going along with my memory of Modern Romance, which I enjoyed again.


    1. I can see the photos now. It's a miracle! The blind can see!

  5. Really Im sorry Glen Cammpbell, a nice guy!

    1. Yeah, from all accounts I've read, he certainly was.

  6. A very nice tribute, Silver. I knew all of those songs and more....some of my favorites from the 70's.

    1. He had a lot of fans, especially during the '60s and '70s.

  7. The Monkees also appeared on Glen's TV show!

    1. Yep. And evidently, he had played on some of their earlier songs.


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