Death Of The Rhinestone Cowboy: Glen Campbell Passes At 81

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Glen Campbell Capitol Archives
Photo: Capitol Archives

We at uDiscover are deeply saddened to report the death of Glen Campbell, one of the undisputed giants of popular music, as both a vocalist and guitarist, of the past half century. Campbell passed away aged 81 on 8 August, following his six-year fight with Alzheimer’s disease.

A statement from the Campbell family reads: “It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved husband, father, grandfather, and legendary singer and guitarist, Glen Travis Campbell, at the age of 81, following his long and courageous battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

“Glen is survived by his wife, Kim Campbell of Nashville, TN; their three children, Cal, Shannon and Ashley; his children from previous marriages, Debby, Kelli, Travis, Kane, and Dillon; ten grandchildren, great- and great-great-grandchildren; sisters Barbara, Sandra, and Jane; and brothers John Wallace ‘Shorty’ and Gerald.

“In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to  the  Glen Campbell Memorial Fund  at  BrightFocus Foundation  through the donation page. A personal statement from Kim Campbell will follow. The family appreciates your prayers and respect for their privacy at this time.”

The decision of the Campbell family to be as public as possible about the artist’s mental condition, and the subsequent creation of the documentary film I’ll Be Me, have been widely praised for bringing awareness of Alzheimer’s to a previously unknown level. Glen’s career was afforded an affectionate send-off with the release in June of his final studio album Adiós. Produced by longtime friend Carl Jackson and featuring the contributions of his children Ashley, Cal and Shannon, it has won widespread praise and success.

Across some 50 years as an instantly-recognised figurehead of American popular culture, and in a recording career that began in his own name in 1961, Glen Campbell brought a distinctive individualism and charm to every song he approached. His good looks and photogenic charm won him further accolades as a television host and actor, as he amassed six Grammy Awards and worldwide sales of 50 million record sales from more than 70 album releases.

Glen Travis Campbell was born, one of 12 children, on 22 April 1936 in Billstown, near Delight in Arkansas. He was playing guitar from the time his first instrument arrived by mail order when he was four. “I think it was seven dollars, which was quite a sacrifice,” he told the Guardian newspaper in 2000.

He left home to join his uncle’s band when he was 14, and came to Los Angeles at 23 to become one of the most in-demand and admired session players of his time. Campbell played on thousands of track dates, famously appearing on the Beach Boys’ classic Pet Sounds, on recordings by Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Dean Martin, the Righteous Brothers and as a key component of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound.

He had put out his first single in his own name, ‘Turn Around, Look At Me,’ written by Jerry Capehart, for Crest Records in October 1961. It reached No. 62 on the Billboard Hot 100, but despite modest follow-up success, it wasn’t until his landmark year of 1967 that Campbell made his breakthrough to solo stardom. John Hartford’s ‘Gentle On My Mind’ and Jimmy Webb’s ‘By The Time I Get To Phoenix’ were top 40 pop singles, but the latter became his first big country hit, establishing a relationship with Webb that would endure for the rest of Glen’s life.

Glen Campbell - By The Time I Get To Phoenix

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Webb’s peerless ‘Wichita Lineman’ became Campbell’s first top ten pop single in America in early 1969, followed the same year by the equally indelible ‘Galveston.’ By then, he was a TV star, graduating from deputising for the Smothers Brothers to his own Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, which ran from 1969 to 1972.

By June of 1969, he was also starring on the big screen as the character Le Boeuf against John Wayne’s ‘Rooster’ Cogburn in True Grit, the title song of which became another signature. Meanwhile, hits such as Webb’s ‘Honey Come Back’ and well-chosen remakes such as ‘It’s Only Make Believe’ kept him on the pop and country charts.

A downturn in Campbell’s career in the early 1970s was followed by a spectacular comeback with the 1975 pop and country No. 1 ‘Rhinestone Cowboy.’ He repeated that feat with 1977’s ‘Southern Nights,’ and if such crossover success became more elusive in later years, he continued to record and perform at a prodigious rate, even through troubled personal times.

AdiosCampbell found the stability he was seeking when he married Kim Woollen in 1982, and their marriage endured to the end of his days. In his 70s, he burnished his legend with the acclaimed series of albums Meet Glen Campbell (2008), Ghost On The Canvas in 2011 and 2013’s See You There. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005 and won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.

Of his approach to Webb’s songs and his attitude to his own talent, Campbell said in 2000: “”I tried to sing ’em as straight as I could sing ’em, and put as much emotion into them as I could. And it really worked. I didn’t really care what I sounded like. I didn’t like the sound of my voice then. But I kind of do now. I’ve gotten used to it.”

His millions of fans worldwide felt the same way, and will join us in saying a heartfelt adiós to Glen Campbell. 

Explore our Glen Campbell Artist Page.

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  1. Jane

    August 8, 2017 at 9:50 pm

    So sorry to hear of this wonderful man’s death. Hope to hear him singing for Jesus in heaven when I get there

  2. Rick

    August 8, 2017 at 10:07 pm

    RIP Glen! You were a champion here on earth, now you will gloriously entertain in Heaven!

    • Mark

      August 9, 2017 at 2:12 am

      So sad to hear of his passing may all be blessed
      And I’ll pray for family!

  3. Suzanne Masse-Geib

    August 8, 2017 at 10:10 pm

    So sorry for the loss of country legend Glen Campbell….such a loss of a true ground breaking country star. Rip Glen, and prayers to his family. Thank you for sharing your father with all of us, and his story and struggle with alltimerzers.

  4. Karen Hodan

    August 8, 2017 at 10:12 pm

    Your voice will never be forgotten. Rest well, sweet man.

  5. Bunetta Coulter

    August 8, 2017 at 10:43 pm

    Hey Glen can you give my Mom, Vivian Marie Vandyke & my Dad, Jacob Merrill big hugs from me. I love your music and was lucky to see you in concert three times.

  6. Tricia

    August 8, 2017 at 10:57 pm

    RIP. May your family friends and fans find peace of heart

  7. Lillian Hunt

    August 8, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    We lost another great one.. Glen Campbell, I loved all your songs. You will be missed by so many.. God Bless you.. Rest in Peace Glen.. You are in God’s hands and you are whole again.. We love you and we will miss you and your music..!!!

  8. Daniel A Burns

    August 8, 2017 at 11:01 pm

    RIP….Prayers for family and friends!!!

  9. BertG

    August 8, 2017 at 11:54 pm

    What an exceptional talent was Glen Campbell. Seemed he has born to play the guitar, and play it he did. I don’t think Glen was given quite enough credit for the influence of Country music on Pop and Rock. A member of an exclusive club of entertainers
    that all stood out from the crowd and blazed a trail of their own, to name a few Hank Williams, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Willie
    Nelson and others of course. Singers of pure distinction every word and every note came forth with such clarity and touched
    the very soul, much like Patsy Cline did. Lineman for the County will sound the same 100 years from now because it possessed
    something that is fast becoming extinct, Quality! For you Glen is the gift very few will share, your music and talent will be RELEVANT
    for Generations to come and that is only fitting for the gifts you gave us. Adios Amigo, Vaya Con Dios

    • Linda Burks

      August 9, 2017 at 2:13 am

      such heartfelt knowledgeable comment he knows As We Know things that he forgotten what a blessing he no longer is Glen Campbell the hero of song once again he is Glen Campbell the man waiting on the people he loved to come be with him thanks for your kind words

  10. Bill McKee

    August 9, 2017 at 12:35 am

    Never met Glen, but I worked with one of his brothers back in the 60’s (Harry Campbell). I remember Harry and I listening to Glen playing and singing on our truck radio. I will never forget Harry saying that’s my brother and he is going to make it big some day! Not only did Glen make it big, he became an American heart throb. God Bless you Glen Cambell, may you Rest In Peace. Thank you for warming our hearts! You will be missed

  11. William McKee

    August 9, 2017 at 12:51 am

    I never met Glen Cambell, but I did work with Harry Cambell one of Glen’s brothers back in the early 60’s. I will never forget listening to this wonderful song and singer, as we sat in our truck. Harry turned to me and said that’s my brother and he’s going to make it big someday. Not only did Glen rise to stardom, he is an American legend and hero God Bless you Glen Cambell may you Rest In Peace!

  12. rob

    August 9, 2017 at 1:14 am

    My father worked for Michigan Bell Telephone and started with the company as a lineman. Witchita Lineman was one of his favorite songs. RIP Glen.

  13. Dee

    August 9, 2017 at 1:17 am

    RIP sir He saw you had suffered enough. Hopefully you’ll be doing what you love when I get there. Heartfelt sympathy to your family

  14. John Ting

    August 9, 2017 at 2:12 am

    My old time favourite singer whom I never forget .
    His song “Rhinestone cowboy” is the best I ever like .

    May his kind soul rest in peace .

  15. Mark

    August 9, 2017 at 2:15 am

    Sad of his passing very nice music,will pray for all family!

  16. Janet

    August 9, 2017 at 2:50 am

    So sad to hear of his passing, he has left many memories with his music. God bless his family and friends.

  17. Marie Valentino

    August 9, 2017 at 4:40 am

    The big ole country band in the sky just got a very talented member. His songs will keep him alive and in our thoughts and prayers . Rest in Peace Glen. Love and sympathy to his family and friends. Treasure your memories of him and he will always be with you . He now has the peace he deserves, a great entertainer who is at rest xo


  18. anne moreland

    August 9, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    i loved him saw him in glasgow he put on a great show. he was also good on the old bagpipes, may he rest in peace

  19. Jim Campbell

    August 9, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    Sad to hear of Glen Campbell’s passing. He had such a golden voice, and man, could he play a guitar. I especially enjoyed listening to Glen along with master piano man, Leon Russell…what a great pair of musicians. I’d have to say ‘Try a Little Kindness’ was my favourite song by Glen. Rest in peace and no doubt you’ll be busy entertaining all the good folks in Heaven.

  20. Wayne Millar

    August 9, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    Here in New Zealand we grew-up with your songs , and they will all-ways be in our minds and hearts, Thank-you so much , you will never be forgotten, rest in peace Glen, and condolences to the Campbell family.

  21. Rob osborn

    August 9, 2017 at 8:29 pm

    Legend , part of the background to my childhood years .

  22. Stacy

    August 9, 2017 at 10:45 pm

    I’m very sorry to hear about the passing of Glenn Campbell. I grew up listening to his music. He was truly a country music legend. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. God Bless you Mr. Campbell. May you rest in peace.

  23. Philip Glatz

    January 6, 2018 at 8:57 pm

    I grew up listening to Glen. I almost saw Glen in concert at age 12, but by the time my mom tried to buy tickets, Glen was already sold out. Little did I know then how much I would relate to what he has talking about, adult hard times, but getting through it and being ok. It’s all part of life! I wanna have a jam session with you when I get to heaven or at least see you play in person. Your music is timeless and always will be! God Bless you Glen!, God Bless your family and friends!

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