You don’t have to have grown up with the music of the 1960’s, as I did, to enjoy it–The Mamas and the Papas, the Beach Boys, the Association, The 5th Dimension, The Monkees, Simon & Garfunkel, etc., etc. Hearing it today, you might note that some of the songs are pretty weak, but the instrumentals are fantastic.
This is due to the group of studio musicians known as The Wrecking Crew, who played the music for most of the top-40 hits in the 1960s and early 1970s no matter who the singers were. (See my post Who Really Played the Music.) One of the guitar players in the Wrecking Crew–who also became a huge solo act in his own right–has died: Glen Campbell.
A self-taught musician from rural Arkansas, Campbell was a guitar virtuoso, who broke into the California music scene as a session musician who could play virtually every style–country, jazz, soul, rock–backing up singers ranging from Frank Sinatra to the Beach Boys.
He then launched a solo career as a singer. His partnership with songwriter Jimmy Webb led to hit after hit, masterpiece after masterpiece: “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston.”
Campbell later hosted a popular TV show, “Glen Campbell’s Goodtime Hour,” which played a big role in bringing country music to a more mainstream audience.
As his success grew, Campbell’s personal life disintegrated, with divorce and what he called “drinkin’ and cocainin’.”
But he changed when he converted to Christianity. “I accepted Jesus Christ on December the 21st, 1981,” he told a reporter. “I’m singin’ a new song.”
In his last years, Campbell suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, though he continued to perform. He released his last album, Adios, in June.
He was 81 when he died.
His obituary by Peter Cooper and Juli Thanki in the Nashville Tennessean gives an excellent, unusually detailed survey of his career.
I heard Campbell play. I was in Branson, Missouri, of all places, and he was on tour. This was long after the peak of his career, but he still had it. At the time, I knew him as a popular singer, but I didn’t realize what great guitar player he was. But he showed it on that stage.
In his memory, let us watch a YouTube video of his performing “Wichita Lineman”:
Photo of Glen Campbell, 1969, CBS Television (eBay item photo front photo back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons