Country music legend Glen Campbell dies at 81

Glen Campbell is seen here July 27, 2011. (Matt Sayles)

Country music legend Glen Campbell has died at age 81.

Stay on top of breaking news stories with the ABC11 News App

On his website, a message announced his passing:

"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."

Campbell's publicist Sandy Brokaw, told The Associated Press that the singer died Tuesday morning in Nashville. No cause was immediately given. Campbell announced in June 2011 that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and that it was in its early stages at that time.

"Glen is one of the greatest voices there ever was in the business and he was one of the greatest musicians," said Dolly Parton in a video statement. "He was a wonderful session musician as well. A lot of people don't realize that. But he could play anything and he could play it really well."

Tributes poured in on social media. "Thank you, Glen Campbell, for sharing your talent with us for so many years May you rest in peace my friend You will never be forgotten," wrote Charlie Daniels.

One of Campbell's daughters, Ashley, said she was heartbroken. "I owe him everything I am, and everything I ever will be. He will be remembered so well and with so much love," she wrote on Twitter.

"You were a shining light in so many ways," Brad Paisley tweeted.

Campbell is perhaps best known for his hit song "Rhinestone Cowboy," which was released in 1975 and has sold more than 5 million copies.

Glen Travis Campbell was born outside of Delight, Arkansas, the 12th child and seventh son of a poor sharecropper on April 22, 1936. From poverty and a near drowning as a toddler rose one of the most accomplished careers in modern music.

Campbell grew up revering country music stars such as Hank Williams.

"I'm not a country singer per se," Campbell once said. "I'm a country boy who sings."

He was just 4 when he learned to play guitar. As a teenager, anxious to escape a life of farm work and unpaid bills, he moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico to join his uncle's band and appear on his uncle's radio show.



By his early 20s, he had formed his own group, the Western Wranglers, and moved to Los Angeles. He opened for the Doors and sang and played bass with the Beach Boys as a replacement for Brian Wilson, who in the mid-'60s had retired from touring to concentrate on studio work. In 1966, Campbell played on the Beach Boys' classic "Pet Sounds" album.

"I didn't go to Nashville because Nashville at that time seemed one-dimensional to me," Campbell told the AP. "I'm a jazzer. I just love to get the guitar and play the hell out of it if I can."

By the late '60s, he was a performer on his own, an appearance on Joey Bishop's show leading to his TV breakthrough. Tommy Smothers of the Smothers Brothers saw the program and asked Campbell if he'd like to host a summertime series, "The Summer Brothers Smothers Show." Campbell shied from the Smothers Brothers' political humor, but still accepted the offer. He was out of the country when the first episode aired.

"The whole lid just blew off," Campbell told the AP. "I had never had anything like that happen to me. I got more phone calls. It was awesome. For the first couple of days, I was like how do they know me? I didn't realize the power of television."

His guests included country acts, but also the Monkees, Lucille Ball, Cream, Neil Diamond and Ella Fitzgerald.

Campbell won six Grammy Awards, the final one coming in 2014 for his last recording, "I'm Not Going to Miss You."

One of the best-selling solo male artists in U.S. chart history, Campbell released more than 70 albums, selling 50 million copies with more than 80 songs charting, according to his website.

Campbell was one of the biggest stars of the late 1960s and 1970s. Besides his musical success, he co-starred with John Wayne in the 1969 movie "True Grit" and had a weekly audience of an estimated 50 million people for the "Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour" on TV from 1969 to 1972.

He gained new fans decades later when the show, featuring his cheerful greeting "Hi I'm Glen Campbell," was rerun on cable channel CMT.

"I did what my Dad told me to do - 'Be nice, son, and don't cuss. And be nice to people.' And that's the way I handled myself, and people were very, very nice to me," Campbell told The Telegraph in 2011.

His performance of the title song from "True Grit," a 1969 release in which he played a Texas Ranger, received an Academy Award nomination.

He twice won album of the year awards from the Academy of Country Music and was voted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005. Seven years later, he received a Grammy for lifetime achievement.

He was married four times and had eight children. As he would confide in painful detail, Campbell suffered for his fame and made others suffer as well. He drank heavily, used drugs and indulged in a turbulent relationship with country singer Tanya Tucker in the early 1980s.

The documentary "Glen Campbell ... I'll Be Me" came out in 2014. The film about Campbell's 2011-12 farewell tour offers a poignant look at his decline from Alzheimer's while showcasing his virtuoso guitar chops that somehow continued to shine as his mind unraveled.

His last record was "Adios," released in June, featured songs that Campbell loved to sing but never recorded, including tunes made famous by Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt and Johnny Cash. Ashley Campbell, also a musician, made a guest appearance and said making the album was "therapeutic."

Campbell is survived by his wife, Kim Campbell of Nashville, their three children, Cal, Shannon and Ashley; 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Related Topics:
entertainmentcelebrity deathsmusic news
(Copyright ©2017 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

Load Comments