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Once More With Feeling
Diagnosed last year as suffering from Alzheimer’s, Glen Campbell is Ireland-bound next month for a last hurrah. His hit-laden career, the time he depped for Brian Wilson in the Beach Boys, hanging with Elvis and his remarkable new album are all on the agenda as he talks to Colm O’Hare.
Colm O Hare, 14 Nov 2011
Last June, it was announced that Glen Campbell had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. For the 75-year-old country legend, it marked the end, or at least the beginning of the end, of a remarkable career that had spanned over six decades. Campbell first came to prominence in the mid to late 1960s with a string of hits, many of them written by his songwriting partner, Jimmy Webb, including timeless classics such as ‘By The Time I Get To Phoenix’, ‘Galveston’ and ‘Wichita Lineman’, while he also scored hits with ‘Gentle On My Mind’ and ‘Dreams Of The Everyday Housewife’. Hosting his own TV show at the height of his fame, his success at the top continued well into the 1970s when he had one of his biggest hits, ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’, which was followed by the autobiographical ‘Country Boy’ and a version of Allen Toussaint’s ‘Southern Nights’.
The decision to go public on his illness was deliberate. He was still touring and recording but Kim, his wife of 30 years, had noticed that he was developing short-term memory problems, not to mention the fact that he was telling the same jokes over and over.
“He always put in flawless performances but he was beginning to fluff the occasional lyric,” she said at the time. People would often come up to me afterwards and ask was he drinking again, so we decided it would be best to let people know the reality of the situation.” Campbell, a one time hell-raiser who has had his fair share of problems with drink, drugs and women (he’s been married four times) joked at the time that the disease didn’t really bother him at all, as there was a lot of stuff “he didn’t want to remember anyway.”
He also said that he was going to release one final album and go out on a farewell tour before retiring from the public eye. That album, Ghost On The Canvas, featuring songs from several contemporary artists, has just been released to glowing five-star reviews. The farewell tour hits Ireland for dates in Dublin, Kerry and Mayo at the end of this month. In fact, when he walks off after the final encore at his show in Castlebar, it may well be has last ever appearance on a European stage.