Glen Campbell, the iconic country music star and guitarist, is dead at the age of 81, according to TMZ.
Campbell will be remembered for, among other things, the 1975 hit song, “Rhinestone Cowboy.” He also leaves behind a legacy of Alzheimer’s Disease educational advocacy that his family furthered into his final years. His wife, Kim, has written emotionally and movingly about Campbell’s struggle with the disease.
Campbell’s official Twitter page confirmed the sad news on the afternoon of August 8, 2017:
“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,” Campbell’s family said in a statement on his website.
The page included the below video with the announcement. The now appropriately and movingly titled, Adios, Campbell’s final album, was released in June:
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Campbell Died After a Long Battle With Alzheimer’s Disease
What was Campbell’s cause of death? According to TMZ, the singer “died after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.” That Campbell was afflicted with Alzheimer’s was well known as his family had made speaking out about it their cause in recent years.
“Campbell died Tuesday around 10 AM in a Nashville facility for Alzheimer’s patients,” a family source told TMZ of the singer’s August 8 death.
In lieu of flowers, Campbell’s family requested that donations be made to the Glen Campbell Memorial Fund at BrightFocus Foundation through the CareLiving.org donation page.
That page features a blog containing the family’s personal story with Alzheimer’s as well as Alzheimer’s resources. For example, a recent blog post from Campbell’s wife, Kim, movingly describes in great detail how the family learned about the affliction and was dealing with it. “I noticed after many years of marriage that Glen was becoming dependent on me for certain things. There were times when I would ask him to do something and he would answer me with, ‘Okay, Mommy.’ I thought this was odd. I wondered if he was lovingly reminding me that he’d made me a mother three times or if he might be hinting that I was mothering him,” she wrote.
She continued, “In addition to being his wife, I would gradually become his mother, his nurse, his conservator, the leader of our family, and his protector. Saying, ‘Okay, Mommy’ was Glen’s lighthearted and possibly even subconscious way of placing himself into the hands he trusted most.”
The post, written shortly before his death, continued, “Now, when I hug Glen every day, I pretend – even just for a moment – that he is still my king. Something in our embrace must speak to his heart as well, because when he wraps his strong arms around me, he squeezes me just like he used to and makes me feel like I’m still his queen. Glen is the king of my heart, and always will be.”
2. Campbell Released More Than 70 Albums During a Five-Decade Career
Campbell leaves behind quite a bit of music for fans from a career that spanned many decades and that saw him featured as “a mainstay on radio stations across the 1960s and 1970s.”
Billboard called him the “boyish singer-guitarist whose perfect blend of country and pop” produced a string of hits. The awards followed; according to Billboard, Campbell sold 45 million albums and recorded “12 gold, four platinum and one double-platinum album.” He won six Grammy Awards, “including Album of the Year in 1968 for By the Time I Get to Phoenix, and was the recipient of the organization’s Lifetime Achievement honor in 2012,” reported Billboard.
“The musician released more than 70 albums over a 50-year career, and had a series of hits in the ’60s and ’70s,” TMZ noted. In addition to the iconic tune, “Rhinestone Cowboy” for which he is probably best remembered, they included songs like “Gentle on My Mind,” and “Wichita Lineman.”
His final album, Adios, was recorded in 2013. His daughter Ashley told Rolling Stone that “the project stands as a heartfelt thank you and goodbye to his fans, via Campbell’s interpretations of some of his favorite songs, from ‘Funny How Time Slips Away’ to ‘Everybody’s Talkin’.'”
She told the magazine those were his “go-to” songs when he strummed a guitar.
3. Campbell Is Survived By His Wife & Eight Children
Glen Campbell was married to his fourth wife, Kim, at the time of his death. He is also survived by eight children from his multiple marriages. According to Rolling Stone, “Campbell was married four times, and has five sons and three daughters.”
He struggled with alcohol and cocaine addiction and had a tabloid headline instigating relationship with Tanya Tucker, but, according to Rolling Stone, in “1981 he became a born-again Christian and in 1982 he married Kimberly Woollen, a Radio City Music Hall Rockette, who helped Campbell clean up his life.”
According to IMDB, he was previously married to Sarah Davis, Billie Jean Nunley and Diane Kirk. He had three children with Kim: “Cal Campbell (born in 1983); Shannon Campbell (born in 1985); and Ashley Campbell (born in 1988). Cal and Shannon both have their own bands and play locally in L.A. and Phoenix (AZ), and Ashley attends Pepperdine University,in Malibu, CA, as a Theatre major.”
A statement about his death on his website said that Campbell is also survived by his children from previous marriages, “Debby, Kelli, Travis, Kane, and Dillon; ten grandchildren, great- and great-great-grandchildren; sisters Barbara, Sandra, and Jane; and brothers John Wallace ‘Shorty’ and Gerald.”
4. Glen Campbell Was Born in Arkansas in a Sharecropping Family
According to Rolling Stone, which also confirmed the legend’s death, “Campbell was born in 1936 in Billstown, Arkansas, the seventh son in a sharecropping family of 12 kids” and he told Rolling Stone in 2014 “We used to watch TV by candlelight.”
This hard-scrabble upbringing would provide him a lot of fodder for country music songs. According to Billboard, he was born “to poverty-stricken parents Wesley and Carrie Dell, who picked cotton on a farm, Glen Travis Campbell was the seventh son, one of 12 siblings. He moved to Los Angeles in the late 1950s, where he began to write songs and record demos, and he became a sought-after session guitarist.”
5. Campbell & His Family Made a Documentary About Alzheimer’s Disease That he Called the ‘Most Important Thing He Could Ever Do’
According to The Tennessean, Campbell was diagnosed with the disease in 2011. “As the disease has progressed, Kim, his wife of 34 years, has been by his side,” the newspaper reported, quoting Kim as saying, “That’s kind of where you feel like you are living when you are living with Alzheimer’s.”
According to the newspaper, Campbell’s family discussed their journey with the disease in the 2014 documentary “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me,” and Kim remained at her husband’s side until the end.
“Glen thought that was probably the most important thing he could ever do,” Kim told the newspaper in spring 2017 of speaking out about Alzheimer’s. “And I think he’s right.”