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Left Lane: Glen Campbell

Country icon’s final studio record another pop masterpiece

December 8, 2011
By RICH GIBSON , Times Leader

The idea of country music icon Glen Campbell covering songs by the likes of Tom Petty, U2, Jackson Browne and the Foo Fighters seemed like a bad joke at the time.

Then, Campbell entered a Los Angeles studio in the spring of 2008 and proceeded to produce a sterling pop masterpiece. His "Meet Glen Campbell" was a top five selection on the Left Lane's year end list of stellar CDs.

Not only had Campbell nailed each song, his production team successfully created a 60s studio feel injecting Campbell's signature string arrangements resulting in a near surreal project.

This past June, Campbell stunned the music industry, announcing he had been diagnosed with early stages of Alzheimer's disease. The now 75-year-old Country Music Hall of Famer explained he had been suffering from short term memory loss for years.

Campbell also had completed a follow-up recording to his 2008 release and revealed plans for a farewell tour before going into retirement.

That tour is a few weeks old and finds Campbell playing a number of mid-market venues including this Sunday night's performance in Huntington, unfortunately, the closest Ohio Valley date on a schedule running through March.

Campbell's first gig at L.A.'s historic Troubadour Club turned into a triumphant, though emotional evening. Several times he stopped in mid-song, occasionally forgetting the lyrics.

According to a review, Campbell handled this adversity with professionalism with the crowd clearly understanding his plight. Campbell recently canceled a Nashville date, but was quick to reschedule. As of this writing, his Huntington show is scheduled to go on as planned.

Meanwhile, Campbell, in late August, released "Ghost on the Canvas," a clear extension of his 2008 disc. This time, Campbell has collaborated with Paul Westerberg (The Replacements) who authored the title track.

Campbell also covers songs penned by Jacob Dylan (son of Bob Dylan); Teddy Thompson (son of Richard Thompson); Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick); Chris Isaac, and Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins.

Campbell also co-wrote five additional songs, all referencing his ongoing battle with Alzheimer's. Not surprisingly, "Ghost" is another superb work and easily one of the year's finest records.

All this some 50 years after Campbell first entered the music scene, recording a number of award-winning song beginning in the mid-60s.

Campbell made history by winning four Grammys in both country and pop categories in 1967.

His "Gentle on my Mind" earned two country awards while "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" received similar accolades in the pop division.

Campbell's best-known songs are likely Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman" and Larry Weiss' "Rhinestone Cowboy." The British magazine 'Mojo' in 1997 declared 'Wichita Lineman' one of the greatest songs of the 20th century.

In addition to his studio work, Campbell, in 1969, was hand-picked by actor John Wayne to play alongside him in the film True Grit for which Wayne was an Academy Award for Best Actor.

Though Campbell's screen career was to be short-lived, the Arkansas native earned a Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Newcomer.

Campbell was one of 12 children born to a sharecropper father in 1936. He started playing guitar as a youth without learning to read music. At age 16, Campbell hocked his guitar and traveled west to live with an uncle in New Mexico.

In his early 20s, Campbell moved to Los Angeles where he soon became an in-demand session musician. A little known fact involving Campbell was a brief stint as a touring member of the Beach Boys, filling in for Brian Wilson in 1964 and 1965. Campbell played guitar on the Beach Boys' historic 'Pet Sounds' record. On tour with the band, he played bass and sang falsetto harmonies.

Campbell's life is filled with incredible twists and turns. He has been married four times and is the father of five sons and three daughters, ranging in year of birth from 1956 to 1986.

Since 1982, Campbell has been married to Kimberly Woolen who was a Radio City 'Rockette' when the couple met on a blind date in 1981. They have three children together.

Eight years ago, Campbell was arrested on drunk driving and hit-and-run charges following an incident, ironically, in Phoenix, Az. Campbell was charged with leaving the accident scene and was later arrested at his nearby home.

After being booked into the Maricopa County jail, Campbell was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, a charge that was later dropped. Pleading guilty to the prior offenses, Campbell received a 10-day jail sentence.

Campbell's new record opens with the self-penned, heartfelt "A Better Place," with Campbell pondering the afterlife. "Some days I'm so confused, Lord/My past gets in my way/I need the ones I love, Lord/More and more each day/One thing I know, the world's been good to me/A better place awaits, you'll see."

Gibson may be reached at



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