Glen Campbell, whose silky Southern tenor dominated country-music charts in the 1960s and ‘70s, died Tuesday following a prolonged battle with Alzheimer’s Disease, according to his official website. He was 81 years old.
Best known for hits like “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Galveston,” and “Gentle on My Mind,” Campbell was also an accomplished guitarist and a regular presence on television screens during his six-decade career. He hosted The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour on CBS from 1969 to 1972, and made regular appearances in films (including 1969’s True Grit) and TV shows over the years.
“It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved husband, father, grandfather, and legendary singer and guitarist, Glen Travis Campbell, at the age of 81, following his long and courageous battle with Alzheimer’s disease,” read a statement on his website.
Campbell was one of country music’s most decorated artists, winning 10 Grammys (including a lifetime achievement award in 2012), and 10 Academy of Country Music Awards. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005, and earned an Oscar nomination in 2015 for “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” the theme to the documentary about him, Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me.
Following his Alzheimer’s diagnosis June 2011, Campbell recorded three albums, capped by the elegant Adiós, which came out in June. As we wrote in our review of the album, “Campbell’s illness looms large over Adiós, weaving tragedy into lyrics like ‘I gotta go now/ I guess I’ll see you around’ or the double-meaning loaded into the question, ‘Have I lost your love, or have I lost my mind?’ In fact, nearly every song has at least one heartstring-tugging allusion to departure or mortality, and for the most part, those lines work. Campbell delivers them with the kind of class and grace that characterized much of his career.”
Before his disease took over, Campbell’s career was marked by one triumph after another. He hit the heights of the pop and country charts on many occasions, while never lowering his sights when it came to artistic excellence. He released more than 60 albums in total, beginning with 1962’s Big Bluegrass Special, and charted some 80 singles. Incredibly, Campbell had seven albums go to No. 1 on the U.S. Country charts between 1967 and 1969, starting with 1967’s “Gentle on My Mind.” He scored three No. 1 hit singles during that period: “I Wanna Live,” “Wichita Lineman,” and “Galveston.”
Campbell was born in 1936 in Billstown, Ark., the seventh son in a sharecropping family of 12 children. He is survived by his wife, Kim Campbell of Nashville, Tenn.; their three children, Cal, Shannon and Ashley; his children from previous marriages, Debby, Kelli, Travis, Kane, and Dillon; 10 grandchildren, great- and great-great-grandchildren; sisters Barbara, Sandra, and Jane; and brothers John Wallace “Shorty” and Gerald.
For more on Glen Cambell, read our recent piece on his 12 Best Songs here, and listen to this exclusive recording of Campbell performing “Gentle On My Mind” at Daytrotter Studios in 2012.