A Tribute to Glen Campbell and his Music, and to his final heroic battle with Alzheimer’s disease

A Commentary by Doug Draper

Posted August 9th, 2017 on Niagara At Large

“Galveston, oh Galveston, I am so afraid of dying,
Before I dry the tears she’s crying,
Before I watch your sea birds flying in the sun, at Galveston, at Galveston.”
       – from the 1969 song, Galveston, written by Jimmy Webb and performed by Glen Campbell

Many people under the age of 40 probably don’t have a clue who Glen Campbell is, and that is understandable.

Long gone are most of the radio stations that devoted 24/7 to playing the songs climbing up and down the Billboard charts and that made recording artists like Campbell a superstar in the golden era of 1960s and 70s pop.

Glen Campbell, who died this August 8th at – believe it or not, for all of those who remember what, for so very long, seemed like that everlasting boyish face – age 81, gained fame as a solo artists with beautifully crafted, country-tinged pop songs like ‘Gentle on My Mind’, ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’, ‘Wichita Lineman’ and ‘Galveston’ at a time when, in 1967 and 1968, LSD-soaked rockers by artists like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane and The Doors where the rage.

Campbell’s music, beautifully performed and crafted by some of the best tunesmiths of the day (most notably, in his case. John Hartford and Jimmy Webb) transcended whatever else rated as “heavy” and “cool” at the time.

As much as I was also one of those who was soaking up the sounds of Hendrix, The Doors and The Who, and saving up my lunch money for tickets to see groups like The Rascals, Vanilla Fudge and The Guess Who in concert, I found something infectious about Glen Campbell’s stuff and I still do.

Good songs also have a way of transcending all of the time that has passed since they made their first debut on the radio.

The boyish looking Glen Campbell the world was introduced to in the 1960s

Glen Campbell was also a damn good guitar play – so good that he began his professional career working as a studio crew with a group of other hired musical guns that called themselves ‘The Wrecking Crew’ (featured in a recent, award-winning documentary film) that performed behind such 1960s hit-makers as The Mamas and Papas, The Turtles, The Byrds, The Monkees and so many more.

Campbell also played guitar on Elvis Presley records, on Frank Sinatra’s ‘Strangers in the Night’ album and performed with Brian Wilson on The Beach Boys’ now legendary ‘Pet Sounds’ sessions that produced such classic tracks as ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ and ‘God Only Knows.’

He was such a great guitar player that I was always sorry (correct me if I’m wrong here) that he never put out an album of instrumentals, featuring his guitar work, as did Bruce Cockburn with his 2005 gem of a record, ‘Speechless.’

Who knows, maybe such a project was in the works when, in 2011, Glen Campbell announced to the world that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which was slowly but surely stealing away his faculties.

Rather go off and hide after the diagnosis (something a good friend of his, Canadian singer Anne Murray, said during an interview about Campbell’s life on CBC radio this August 9th that she might have done), he produced one more critically acclaimed album, called ‘Ghost On The Canvas’, which included five songs he co-wrote and, yes, a couple of strong instrumentals – a record album he exercised no denial in billing as his “final studio album” at the time of its released in 2011.

Glen Campbell, with daughter Ashley backing him up on keyboards, performing on his final ‘Goodbye Tour’ after announcing, in 2011, that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

In one more courageous move, Glen Campbell and his family, including some of his musically talented children and his wife Kimberly, hit the road for one more tour for his fans (quite like Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie did after he was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer this past years).

Called his ‘Goodbye Tour,’ it became the focus of a Grammy Award-winning, and Academy Award-nominated documentary film, ‘I’ll Be Me’, which has since been aired a number of times on CBC and PBS networks across Canada and the United States.

As someone who had just been through watching my mother decline and finally succumbs to Alzheimer’s disease, I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch this film, but I am glad I did.

‘I’ll Be Me’, which is available on DVD and Blu-ray, is an inspiring and heroic account of a proud and successful person and the strength and support of his family as they collectively face this terrible disease down.

This moving film is perhaps Glen Campbell’s last great gift to the world and I recommend anyone who has or is still experiencing a debilitating disease like this in their family to get together with their loved ones and watch it.

To view a trailer for the film documentary ‘I’ll Be Me’, click on


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One response to “A Tribute to Glen Campbell and his Music, and to his final heroic battle with Alzheimer’s disease

  1. Powerfully and sensitively expressed, Doug! Tearfully I say to you, thank you for your words.
    The loss of Glen Campbell is the loss of another legend and another peek into the world of Alzheimer’s, a disease that is threading its way into more and more families and with devastating consequences not limited to emotional and financial havoc.
    It terrifies me that even the brightest, most active minds among us are succumbing to this dreaded disease even as we are being told that keeping the brain engaged is a component for its prevention. If there were tried and true courses of action I could take to prevent Alzheimer’s I’d be all over them.
    I like to think I am on track where popular brain research recommendations are concerned. I have to. My mom is in the throes and it scares me to death to feel like I am staring my future squarely in the face.
    All I have is the hope that my lifestyle choices define my fate and not merely genetics or some twisted game of luck of the draw. For me and many of us, the greatest fear is that we will go down alone, lost in a system of neglect and oversight in a community ill equipped to properly, and with dignity, house and manage this escalating problem. Don’t we all seem to live in a city where our tax dollars and revenue streams are poorly managed!
    I know the story started out as a tribute to Glen Campbell, a hugely talented and highly respected individual whose music will live on and be enjoyed for generations to come but Glen himself bravely wanted the story of Alzheimer’s out there. We cannot prevent, treat, fund or research that which remains a hushed conversation in coffee shops and curtain-drawn living rooms. And, it simply has to be far more cost effective to prevent diseases of the brain than to treat them.
    My hope is that with Glen’s passing more money will be funneled into advanced brain research and the causes of Alzheimer’s and it’s prevention even if it means taking on, or merely exposing (some of us vote with our wallets)some really huge corporations whose products (in the air, water, soil, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics/toiletries, household cleaners, food chain, food/beverage containers, etc.) are likely contributors to, if not direct cause of, this and other otherwise potentially preventable diseases.
    R.I.P. Glen.


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