Glen Campbell, the country music icon behind ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ and ‘Wichita Lineman’, has died aged 81 following “a long and courageous battle” against Alzheimer’s disease, his family said.
The singer, who announced his diagnosis with the disease in 2011 and had completed a farewell tour in 2012, died in Nashville, Tennessee on Tuesday (August 8), where he had been a patient in Alzheimer’s care facilities since 2014.
"It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved husband, father, grandfather," the family’s statement read.
Dolly Parton, Brian Wilson and Cheryl Crow are amongst the stars who have paid tribute to Campbell. Parton called him “one of the greatest voices of all time”, while Wilson claimed to be “very broken up” over the loss of “an incredible musician and an even better person”. Crow Tweeted “huge loss in the world of music today”.
Huge loss in the world of music today. Rest In Peace, Glen Campbell. https://t.co/vexA1kYixX— Sheryl Crow (@SherylCrow) August 8, 2017
Campbell, the self-taught guitarist who went on to sell 45 million records and release over 70 albums, was born in Arkansas on April 22, 1936, the seventh of 12 children of a sharecropper. With the help of his uncle Boo he taught himself to play on a $7 guitar and embarked on a long and successful career by first joining his uncle’s band in New Mexico, then moving to Los Angeles and becoming an in-demand session musician.
As a member of the legendary Wrecking Crew group of session players, he performed on records by The Monkees, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole and Elvis amongst many others. He played an important role in developing Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound and played on The Beach Boys’ seminal ‘Pet Sounds’, having replaced Brian Wilson as a touring member of the band in 1964.
Meanwhile, Campbell was releasing solo records, which began to garner success in the late 60s. ‘Gentle On My Mind’ and ‘By The Time I Get To Phoenix’ won him his first Grammy awards but it was 1968’s US Number One hit ‘Wichita Lineman’ - written with collaborator Jimmy Webb as part of what he called his “town cycle” of songs - that would go down in history as Campbell’s finest achievement, regularly appearing in Best Songs Ever lists for decades to come.
Campbell’s biggest hit would be ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’, which sold 2 million copies in 1975, by which time Campbell was also hosting TV shows such as The Glen Campbell Music Show and appearing in movies including True Grit.
After struggling with a brief and difficult relationship with fellow country star Tanya Tucker and spending many years battling drink and drug issues which saw him arrested for drink driving in 2003, Campbell was inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame in 2005. He later released an album of covers of tracks by the likes of U2, Green Day, Foo Fighters and Travis.
After his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Campbell set out on a farewell tour, playing his final public show at the Grammy Awards in 2012. "I've accomplished everything I wanted to do," he said in an interview that year. "I've been blessed. When I think back to where I came from, I have been able to do some amazing things in my life. And music will always be part of my life."