Aug. 8, 2017 -- Country music legend Glen Campbell died Tuesday, more than 6 years after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
“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,” read an update from Campbell’s family on his Facebook page.
Campbell and his wife, Kim, revealed that he had Alzheimer’s in a June 2011 interview with People magazine. They said he had been diagnosed 6 months earlier, which would have been when he was 74, and wanted to let fans know why he might be forgetful or confused in upcoming concerts.
"Glen is still an awesome guitar player and singer," Kim Campbell told the magazine. "But if he flubs a lyric or gets confused on stage, I wouldn’t want people to think, 'What's the matter with him? Is he drunk?’ ” Campbell had had a cocaine habit and a drinking problem but eventually stopped abusing drugs and alcohol after marrying Kim.
Complications from Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., where about half a million people die each year because they have the disease. It is the only one of the top 10 causes of death in the U.S. that cannot be prevented, cured, or slowed down. Approximately 5 million Americans 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s, and two-thirds of them are women.
Campbell and his family kept his illness in the public eye. They invited documentary filmmaker James Keach to follow him on his farewell tour in 2011 and 2012. The resulting documentary, Glen Campbell … I’ll Be Me, premiered last October in Nashville.
A Tireless Advocate
In May 2012, Campbell was the guest of honor at an Alzheimer’s Association event held at the Library of Congress to raise awareness of the disease among members of Congress. Campbell, accompanying himself on the guitar, sang several of his hits, such as “Galveston,” “Wichita Lineman” and “Rhinestone Cowboy” that night.
He played more than 120 dates in 2012. Although his health forced him to cancel August 2012 performances in Australia and New Zealand, his last international concerts, Campbell didn’t stop touring until the spring of 2013.
On Campbell’s 77th birthday In April 2013, daughter Ashley Campbell, her parents sitting beside her, spoke to the Senate Special Committee on Aging to press for a plan by the Alzheimer’s Association to find effective treatments by 2025. “It’s hard to come to the realization that someday my dad might look at me and I will be absolutely nothing to him,” Ashley Campbell, who, along with brothers Cal and Shannon, toured with Campbell as a member of his band, told the senators.
Multiple Grammy Award Winner
Music was Campbell’s life since he was a teenager. The son of a sharecropper from Delight, AR, he had 21 Top 40 hits, including two hitting No. 1, and six Top 20 albums, including the No. 1 Wichita Lineman. He also had 27 country Top 10 singles and nine country No. 1 albums.
His work earned him six Grammy Awards, the last just this year for Best Country Song for “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” which he co-wrote for the documentary about his Alzheimer’s battle. That song, the last one he ever recorded, also earned him his first Academy Award nomination this year. The lyrics include the poignant “I’m still here, but yet I’m gone.”
Campbell also won three Grammy Hall of Fame honors and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, seven Academy of Country Music Awards, three American Music Awards, two Country Music Association Awards, a 2005 Country Music Hall of Fame induction, and three Gospel Music Association Dove Awards. And in 1970, he was nominated for two Golden Globe awards, one for best actor in a television series, musical or comedy, for the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, and one for New Star of the Year, for co-starring with John Wayne in the film True Grit.
He had entered a full-time care facility in Nashville in March 2014, where, according to one news report, he could still sometimes play the guitar months later. Besides his wife, Kim, and their children, daughter Ashley and sons Cal and Shannon, Campbell, who was married four times, is survived by sons Travis, Kane, and Dillon and daughters Debby and Kelli.