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Glen Campbell: From session musician to music legend

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He was the first artist to effectively bridge the gap between country and pop music, winning two Grammys in each category in 1967. He was an accomplished guitarist who was praised by his peers and idolized by many who strived to follow in his footsteps. He brought the work of regional songwriters such as John Hartford (“Gentle on My Mind”) and Allen Toussaint (“Southern Nights”) into the mainstream and recorded hit after hit from the pen of Jimmy Webb, a man affectionately dubbed as “America’s Songwriter.”

He was the 1968 CMA Entertainer of the Year and won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement award in 2012 while earning many other accolades in between. He was Glen Campbell, who died on August 8 at the age of 81, but fans can rest assured that his musical legacy isn’t going anywhere.

The son of a sharecropper, Campbell was born in Billstown, Arkansas in 1936. At the age of four, he received his first guitar – a five dollar special from Sears. It didn’t take young Campbell long to learn his way around the instrument, as he was appearing on local radio stations at the age of six. As he divided his time between the cotton fields and music, he joined his uncle’s bluegrass band in 1954, before forming his own outfit called the “Western Wranglers” in 1958.

Two years later, his life took a turn. Moving to Los Angeles, Campbell became a session musician, and his guitar adorned albums from the likes of Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and the Monkees. Between 1964 and 1965, Campbell caught his biggest break yet when he toured with the Beach Boys, filling in for Brian Wilson.

Even while Campbell was working hard for the benefit of other artists, he recorded “The Astounding 12-String Guitar of Glen Campbell,” a groundbreaking album which finally placed his virtuosity on a pedestal for every guitarist to emulate. And although Campbell had established himself by playing guitar to perfection, he was certainly no slouch when it came to singing.

Campbell’s first big hit, “Gentle on My Mind,” came in 1967, but his biggest success came when he partnered with songwriter Jimmy Webb, who penned huge top-ten hits for Campbell, including “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” and “Galveston.” By the time he appeared alongside screen legend John Wayne in the 1969 film “True Grit,” after which his performance of the title song was nominated for an Academy Award, Campbell was one of the biggest stars in entertainment. Television shows and specials followed, as did several hits throughout the 1970’s, including his biggest hit and signature song, “Rhinestone Cowboy.”

After the heartbreaking news of his death two weeks ago, contemporaries such as Ringo Starr, Brian Wilson, Peter Frampton, and Paul Stanley showed their support for the music legend, as did famous admirers like Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Lenny Kravitz. That’s quite a star-studded fan club, and that’s because Campbell was one of a kind: master guitarist, country and western singer, pop crooner, and television star.

In 2014, a documentary film named, “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me,” chronicled the artist’s 2012 farewell tour, in the wake of his diagnosis with Alzheimer’s. Included in the film is “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” Campbell’s last recording, which was nominated for an Oscar.

Although the song was an appropriate rebuke of his illness, it’s rather ironic since it represents the opposite of what Glen Campbell’s many fans will surely feel after the loss of such a musical legend.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Glen Campbell: From session musician to music legend”

  1. Martha Hannah on August 29th, 2017 8:12 pm

    So why isn’t he in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?? Such a terrible omission

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Glen Campbell: From session musician to music legend