Glen Campbell, the iconic country music star and guitarist who died at the age of 81, leaves behind eight children.
Campbell is probably best known for the 1975 hit song, “Rhinestone Cowboy.” With his family at his side, he fought Alzheimer’s Disease in the final years of his life. His fourth and final wife, Kim, and some of his children have written movingly and in great emotional detail about Campbell’s struggle with the disease.
Campbell’s children are from his multiple marriages and several of them are musicians who have movingly used their inherited talents to preserve their father’s memory. However, a rift emerged publicly between Campbell’s elder children from early marriages and his children with Kim.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Campbell Left Behind Five Sons & Three Daughters
Glen Campbell was “married four times, and has five sons and three daughters,” according to Rolling Stone.
Campbell’s once rocky personal life propelled him into the headlines: He struggled with substance abuse and had trouble keeping a stable relationship, most notably embarking on a tumultuous pairing with singer Tanya Tucker. However, 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,” Rolling Stone reported.
According to IMDB, Campbell 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 was 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.”
2. Campbell’s Daughter, Ashley, Introduced Her Father’s Final Album & Shannon Campbell Played His Father’s Final Song Live
Campbell’s family released a statement on his death and included the above video with the announcement. The now appropriately and movingly titled, Adios, Campbell’s final album, was released in June.
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. Wide Open Country reports that Ashley is a “country music singer, banjo player and budding star.”
Ashley wrote that she was heartbroken by her father’s death.
Campbell’s wife, Kim, wrote about Campbell’s bond with Ashley on the family’s blog.
She described how the family went to a country club for New Year’s Dinner as Glen was “entering stage six of Alzheimer’s.”
“As the night began to wind down, Ashley walked up to her father and escorted him to the dance floor for a father daughter dance. Their sweet dance brought tears to the eyes of everyone watching, but especially for me, because I knew that this dance would likely substitute for the one she might have at her own wedding someday,” she wrote.
Shannon Campbell, Glen’s son, played his father’s final song live because Glen Campbell couldn’t do so.
“Because Glen was never able to play it live due to his battle with Alzheimers, his son Shannon decided to perform the song for his father in the attic of Campbell’s Nashville home,” the blurb with the YouTube video explains.
3. Campbell’s Son, Cal, Used Guitar to Deal With the Pain of His Father’s Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
Cal Campbell, one of Glen’s sons, has written movingly on the family’s caregiving blog. “When your father is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, doctors give you a long and depressing list of things to expect. He’ll forget your name and then, eventually, who you are entirely. There won’t be any more chats or heart-to-hearts or fatherly advice. He won’t tell (and retell) you funny stories of things that you said or did as a kid year after year. He won’t walk you down the aisle or spoil, or even know, his grandchildren – and you have to just accept this…” he wrote.
Cal wrote that he turned to guitar. He discovered that his father’s gift to him was in him. “As a musician, one of my main coping mechanisms is through song. I picked up my guitar one afternoon to try and forget some of the pain of having a father with Alzheimer’s – even just for a few minutes – and as I strummed a chord and opened my mouth to sing, the gift appeared before me. The room suddenly filled and echoed with gifts, with memories, with familiar sounds and tones of home,” Cal wrote. “My father’s gift is inside of me and presents itself every time I sing a note with the same inflections as he would have, or in the same range or style.”
The family caregiving page features other blogs 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.”
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.”
4. Campbell’s Eldest Children Are Also Very Accomplished
Debby Campbell, Glen’s oldest daughter and the child of his ex-wife Diane Kirk, also is a singer. She wrote on Facebook, “Happy Fathers Day to this man I love so much . You have touched millions of lives with your music and I am blessed to call you DAD. We had the best years traveling the world singing , playing cards ,Golfing , watching wheel of fortune . Just hanging out . I Love You Dad 💜”
Debby wrote a book called Life With My Father, Glenn Campbell. The blurb on Amazon reads in part, “For the last twenty-four years, Debby has been by her father’s side, as a part of his concert touring act, as well as a supportive part of his family. She has been with her dad through his four wives, through drug and alcohol addiction, and now through the shattering beginnings of Alzheimer’s disease. In her frank memoir, Campbell tells the story of her father straight from the heart.”
In 2016, there was a lot of publicity over an alleged rift between some of Glen Campbell’s oldest children and his fourth wife, although his daughter Ashley denied that family members had been prevented from visiting Glen.
Another of Campbell’s sons banded together with Debby. Travis Campbell was born to Glen and “Billie Jean Nunley, with whom he has three children and whom he divorced in 1975,” according to UK Mirror. The news site added, “He married Sarah Barg in 1976 and they divorced in 1980, three weeks after the birth of Dillon.”
Travis Campbell wrote a moving account of surviving death after suffering a heart attack and stroke.
In 2016, Campbell’s children, Kelli Campbell and Wesley Kane Campbell “filed suit against their father’s business manager, Stanley B. Schneider, and the trustee of the Campbell Trust, Lawrence J. Turner,” Radar Online reported of the continued family issues.
5. Glen Campbell’s Son, Dillon, Is Also an Artist
Many of Campbell’s children are very talented, and that also describes his son, Dillon.
Dillon’s website says, “They say the best art and creative expression stems from trauma. For singer/songwriter Dillon Campbell, the artist’s journey has carried him through life’s trials and tribulations. As the son of legendary singer Glen Campbell, music is in Dillon’s DNA; but he’s never been one to rest on his family laurels, forging his own unique musical style which has been heralded for its emotional depth, distinct lyricism, and brooding melodies. With influences ranging from David Bowie to Paul Simon to Interpol, Dillon’s message is a simple one: no matter how dark it gets there is a light at the end of the tunnel which never goes out.”
Campbell’s official Twitter page confirmed that Campbell had died 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.
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.
Campbell’s country music career spanned five decades during which he was “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. 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.”