GLEN CAMPBELL – Feature from Jul/Aug 2011 Issue


A pop and country legend wraps up an astonishing career on his own terms

Glen Campbell was recording his new album, Ghost on the Canvas, when producer Julian Raymond handed him a guitar he’d never played before. The Country Music Hall of Famer cradled the Gibson 335 and “whipped out the solo like he’d been playing it his whole life,” says Raymond, looking at Campbell with a sense of wonder as the two sit together on a couch in the den of Campbell’s Malibu home. “He’s just that good.”

Such flashes of skill and inspiration have never seemed more precious. Earlier this year, Campbell, 75, announced that he is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. He says that Ghost will be his last studio album of new material, accompanied by a farewell tour. Alzheimer’s has already moderately affected his speech and short-term memory—he uses a teleprompter in concert—but his spirit and sense of humor remain undiminished.

Campbell co-wrote many of the songs on the new album, including the plaintive opener “A Better Place,” but also turned to contributions from younger writers like Paul Westerberg, Jakob Dylan, Teddy Thompson and Guided by Voices’ Robert Pollard. Many of the tunes reflect on faith in the face of daunting circumstances. “I believe I was created by God, and I’ve tried to live my life that way,” Campbell says. “I’ve failed from here to there, but I get up and start again.”

The Arkansas native credits his still-remarkable musical chops to his training as a session musician, playing during the 1950s and ’60s on hits for superstar acts like Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and the Beach Boys. “You had to learn the songs, the progressions, whatever they were singing,” he says. Campbell then established himself as a solo superstar armed with a smooth voice, sweeping strings and sympathetic collaborators like songwriter Jimmy Webb and producer Al DeLory—all invoked in the sound of Ghost. “We’ve moved forward, it’s more of a modern sound, but we included that where we could,” Raymond says. “To make a great Glen Campbell record, there have to be those elements.”

Campbell will undertake a three-week U.K. tour this fall before heading back to say goodbye to fans stateside. His bandmates now include four of his children, which makes playing live all the more enjoyable. “I crack the whip on them, boy,” he says with a laugh. “I told them, ‘This is professional. This ain’t kicking-around time.’”

–Melinda Newman

“The Country Music Hall of Famer cradled the Gibson 335 and “whipped out the solo like he’d been playing it his whole life.”

comment closed

Copyright © 2017 M Music & Musicians Magazine ·