Glenn Campbell, the country crooner and guitarist best known for hits like “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Rhinestone Cowboy,” has died. He was 81. Campbell’s career spanned six decades primarily in the 1960’s-1970’s. He sold over 45 million records and in 1968, he outsold the Beatles. He had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease after being diagnosed in 2011. Very often when listening to the radio, a hit of Campbell’s could be heard up to present. Anyone who went through their teen-age years in the 60’s and 70’s can identify his songs after just a few notes–and will feel their heart ache.
In his youth, Campbell started playing guitar and became obsessed with jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. He dropped out of school when he was 14 and moved to Wyoming with an uncle who was a musician, playing gigs together at rural bars. He soon moved to Los Angeles and by 1962 had solidified a spot in the Wrecking Crew, a group of session pros. In 1963 alone he appeared on 586 cuts, and countless more throughout the decade, including the Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man,” Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas,” Merle Laggard’s “Mama Tried” and the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.”
Campbell’s hits include “Gentle on My Mind,” ”Wichita Lineman,” ”Galveston,” and his signature track, “Rhinestone Cowboy,” which soared through the Billboard charts in 1975. He also recorded soundtracks to several movies including “True Grit” in which he co-starred with John Wayne. Campbell won Grammy awards in both the country and pop categories in 1967
“He had that beautiful tenor with a crystal-clear guitar sound, playing lines that were so inventive,” Tom Petty told Rolling Stone during a 2011 profile of Campbell. “It moved me.” The background music on his songs coupled with his endearing voice would bring most listeners to tears. Most of his fans can remember when and where they first heard one of his songs—they tugged at the heartstrings. Campbell had his first major hit in 1967, with “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” written by Jimmy Webb, an L.A. kid with a knack for intricate ballads. “Glen’s vocal power and technique was the perfect vehicle for these, in a way, very sentimental and romantic songs. And I think that you know we made some records that were very nearly perfect. ‘Wichita Lineman’ is a very near perfect pop record,” Webb said. Campbell was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005. “Adios” was released this year-Campbell’s go-to songs that he loved covered by some of his favorite artists.
NBC photo courtesy of NBC.com, photo of Glenn Campbell courtesy of Rolling Stone.com, video courtesy of You tube, photo of Glen Campbell’s “Adios” courtesy of Associated Press via Universal Studios.