Glen during his mid-career. Picture credit: Patrick Harbron/ rockandrollicons © 1985/2017
Glen during his mid-career. Picture credit: Patrick Harbron/ rockandrollicons © 1985/2017

Rhinestone Cowboy, Glen Campbell, Dead At 81

The Rhinestone Cowboy has taken his last ride. Popular American country music singer and guitarist Glen Travis Campbell died today (Aug. 8) at age 81 in Nashville, after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Over the course of his long career, Campbell released more than 70 albums and sold more than 45 million records. His biggest hit singles included "Wichita Lineman," "Gentle On My Mind," "By The Time I Get To Phoenix," "Rhinestone Cowboy," and "Galveston," many of which were written by Jimmy Webb. In 1968, while at the height of his commercial powers, he sold more than the Beatles in the US.

Upon hearing the news of Campbell's death, his fellow stars quickly posted tributes on social media. On Facebook, Dolly Parton wrote "Glen Campbell was one of the greatest voices of all time. I will always love you, Glen!"

Brad Paisley's FB post reads: "Thank you Glen Campbell for the artistry, grace & class you brought to country music. You were a shining light in so many ways."

The tweets flooded in too:

Peter Frampton: "As well as your incredible musical abilities you were one of the most down to earth ppl I have ever known."

Terri Clark: "The great @GlenCampbell has taken his guitar and iconic voice to the other side, to play in an Angel band. We will miss you Glen.. #RIP"

Kenny Rogers: "Glen was such a talented, great guy. Thankful to have known him."

Tim McGraw: "Songs, songs, songs… Man, in a world of good stuff, his was great, in a world of great stuff, his was special!"

Lenny Kravitz: "Besides being an amazing solo artist, Glen Campbell was also a genius studio musician."

Brian Wilson: " I'm very broken up to hear about my friend Glen Campbell. An incredible musician and an even better person. I'm at a loss. Love & Mercy."

The peer respect Campbell enjoyed was also shown on his 2011 album Ghost on the Canvas, one featuring Paul Westerberg (The Replacements), Jakob Dylan, Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins) and Robert Pollard (Guided By Voices).

Campbell's final album, the fittingly-entitled Adios, was released two months ago. Featuring material recorded in 2012 and 2013, it included guest appearances by Vince Gill and Willie Nelson. It was his 64th studio album.

Campbell won a total of ten Grammys, in both country and pop categories, the final one coming in 2015, for best country song, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You.” Campbell co-wrote that song for Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me, a highly-acclaimed documentary look at his declining health.

Campbell was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005.

The singer was also prominent on the big and small screen, both as an actor and television host. In the summer of 1968, Campbell guest hosted the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, which led to him getting his own variety show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. It ran from 1969 until 1972, and often featured Anne Murray. His first film role was alongside John Wayne in the 1969 hit True Grit, and he also wrote the movie's Oscar-nominated title song.

Campbell was born in 1936 in Billstown, Arkansas, in a sharecropping family of 12 kids. He first made a mark as a guitarist, dropping out of school at age 14 to play the bars.

Upon moving to Los Angeles, he became part of the famed Wrecking Crew, a large group of session musicians heavily featured on the hit songs of the day. By one estimate, he played on 586 cuts in 1963, and classics he later played on included the Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man," Elvis Presley's "Viva Las Vegas,” Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried" and the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling." 

Many of these sessions were with Leon Russell, who termed Campbell "the best guitar player I'd heard before or since. Occasionally we'd play with 50 or 60-piece orchestras. His deal was he didn't read [music], so they would play it one time for him, and he had it."

Sources: Billboard, Rolling Stone, The Washington Post

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