When the great Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot returned to the UK in 2016 for his first dates there since 1985, his set featured many of the classic songs that made his reputation. It also included a beautiful, lesser-known ballad that’s also a hidden gem in the catalogue of Glen Campbell. The great singer-guitarist entered the Billboard Hot 100 on 26 June 1971 with his version of Lightfoot’s ‘The Last Time I Saw Her.’
Lightfoot recorded the original of this exquisitely poignant song on his 1968 album Did She Mention My Name? But it was superbly suited to Campbell’s heart-rending vocal style, especially in a production by Al DeLory that featured a graceful string arrangement.
When he released his rendition, Campbell was coming off a major country hit in the US with his recording of Roy Orbison‘s ‘Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream).’ He fared less well with ‘The Last Time I Saw Her,’ which reached No. 21 country and No. 61 pop. It did go to No. 12 on Billboard’s Easy Listening chart.
But the song did become the title track and lead song on his next Capitol album. Recorded in Hollywood, it followed in July and also included ‘Dream Baby.’ The LP also offered his take on another Lightfoot song, the much more widely-known ‘If You Could Read My Mind.’ Also included was Joe South’s ‘Rose Garden,’ made into a hit by Lynn Anderson the year before Glen’s reading. In 2019, ‘The Last Time I Saw Her’ took its place on Campbell’s updated career anthology The Legacy (1961-2017).
Lightfoot, meanwhile, continued his busy touring schedule with 2018’s The Legend Lives On schedule. After he turned 80 late that year, he embarked on 2019’s 80 Years Strong tour. He continues to perform such indelible troubadour anthems as ‘If You Could Read My Mind,’ ‘Carefree Highway’ and perhaps his ultimate story song, ‘The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald.’
Glen Campbell’s version of ‘The Last Time I Saw Her’ is on his album of the same name, which can be bought here.
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