Glen Campbell (April 22, 1936)
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Born the seventh son in a family of 12 children in the small town of Delight, Arkansas, Glen Campbell got his love of music from his family. They made their living as sharecroppers, but they also instilled an interest in music in Campbell when he was a young boy. By the time he was 16, Campbell had pawned his guitar and moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico to join his uncle's band. This launched a career that saw Campbell become a successful Country and Pop recording star, host his own variety television show, and earn a Golden Globe nomination. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Campbell became known as one of the best session musicians in the industry. However, he jumped at the chance to join the Beach Boys temporarily in 1964 and 1965 after Brian Wilson became ill. Campbell said the money was a lot more than he was making in the studios, but it was odd at first to sing the high harmonies that the Beach Boys were noted for. He believes that the experience raised his vocal range about a tone and a half. In 1967, after modest success as a solo artist, Campbell had his first hit record with "Gentle On My Mind
." He followed it up later that year with "By the Time I Get to Phoenix
." Jimmy Webb wrote another Campbell standard, "Wichita Lineman," after being inspired by seeing a lone telephone pole worker out on the Kansas-Oklahoma border.
Campbell made a splash into the acting world when he was selected to play the role of Texas Ranger La Boeuf in the 1969 film True Grit, starring the legendary John Wayne. Despite lukewarm reviews for Campbell's acting, he was nominated for a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer. He lost to Jon Voight, who was in Midnight Cowboy and went on to a more acclaimed acting career. Campbell had a better luck on the small screen as the host of the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, which aired from 1969 until 1972. The producer was the controversial Tommy Smothers, whose own show was regularly censored until it was thrown off the air. However, Smothers respected Campbell's wishes and avoided touching on controversial topics on Campbell's show.
Campbell recorded his signature song, "Rhinestone Cowboy
," in 1975. David Allan Coe said in an interview with Review
magazine in 2009 that the songwriter, Larry Weiss, originally sent the song to him but he turned it down. Coe was already calling himself the Rhinestone Cowboy and thought it would be egotistical to record it. Weiss recorded it himself and released in on the Black and Blue Suite
album. Campbell later heard it on the radio and his own cover of the song became a #1 hit on both the Pop and Country charts. After turning out other radio-friendly hits in the 1970s, such as "Southern Nights" and "Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in L.A.)," Campbell's popularity waned as the 20th century came to a close. His 2011 album, Ghost on the Canvas
, was critically acclaimed and Campbell reported that it was his "farewell album."
In June 2011, Campbell announced in an interview with People magazine that he had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease after years of suffering from short-term memory loss. Rather than simply disappear from the spotlight, Campbell opted to go on a farewell tour, but he and his wife, Kim, wanted his condition known in case he flubbed a line or appeared confused on-stage. His wife said in a 2011 interview on ABC's Nightline that performing actually helped his memory, so he will keep performing as long as he can. Kim said, "Music is good medicine." In February 2012, Campbell was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammy Awards, where he performed a rousing rendition of "Rhinestone Cowboy."
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