‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ Glen Campbell dies at 81

Glen Campbell had dozens of hits in the country and pop charts
Glen Campbell had dozens of hits in the country and pop charts

Singer Glen Campbell, whose death was announced on Tuesday, was a country superstar whose recordings crossed various musical genres.

Campbell, whose death at 81 was perpetuated by six years of intense struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, was an accomplished guitarist on the 1960s pop scene with the Beach Boys before successfully moving into country as a solo artiste.

Glen Travis Campbell was born on April 22, 1936, into a poor sharecropping family of Scottish roots, near Delight, Arkansas. He began learning to play guitar when he was four and, by 10, had become highly proficient on the instrument.

In 1960, he moved to Los Angeles and was lead guitarist for the Champs, an instrumental group that had scored a No 1 hit with Tequila.

During the early to mid-1960s, he recorded as a session man with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, the Righteous Brothers, Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole, Rick Nelson, Mamas & Papas, Bobby Darin and rising country star Merle Haggard. At various times in the mid-1960s, he also toured and recorded with the Beach Boys.

Campbell came into his own as a cross-over recording artiste in the late 1960s. His recording of John Hartford’s Gentle on My Mind won him two Grammys. He collected three more Grammys for his recording of Jimmy Webb’s By the Time I Get to Phoenix.

In all, Campbell charted 75 country singles, five of which went No 1: I Wanna Live; Wichita Lineman, Galveston, Rhinestone Cowboy and Southern Nights. He also posted a total of 36 singles on the pop charts.

The Glen Campbell ‘Goodtime Hour’, which began airing on CBS-TV in 1969, shot him to superstardom across the States. He also had movie roles with John Wayne in True Grit (1969) and Norwood (1970).

As a recording artiste, Glen continued to have more success in the country than on the pop charts.

Campbell charted his last pop single – I Love My Truck — in 1981 but triumphed through the rest of that decade with country hits such as A Lady Like You, It’s Just a Matter of Time, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, Still Within the Sound of My Voice, I Have You, and She’s Gone, Gone, Gone.

In 2005, Campbell, who was also proficient on Scottish bagpipes, was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, an honour he said was “one of the biggest highlights of my life”.

Campbell married four times and fathered eight children. He married Kimberly ‘Kim’ Woollen in 1982 and their three children – Cal, Shannon and Ashley – are proficient musicians who worked in his touring band.

In 2011, he announced he had Alzheimer’s and would start a final tour that year. With the full support of wife Kim, performances from the final tour featured in a 2014 documentary – ‘Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me’. This documented challenges he and the family faced as his illness symptoms became more severe.

In June, Universal Music released Adios, Campbell’s final album of all-new recordings, featuring material never recorded before, with songs written by Willie Nelson, Roger Miller and Bob Dylan.

Recently, he resided at a Nashville memory care home, unaware of his surroundings.