The late Glen Campbell was born on this day, April 22, in 1936. He was the seventh of 12 children to John Campbell, a sharecropper, and his wife Carrie. After Campbell’s uncle, known as “Boo,” taught Campbell to play the guitar as a child, the future star relocated to Albuquerque, N.M., as a teenager, to play in his uncle’s band. In 1958, Campbell formed his own band, the Western Wranglers, and in 1960, he relocated to Los Angeles to become a session musician.
Campbell’s debut album, Big Bluegrass Special, was released in 1962 on Capitol Records, but it only produced one hit, “Kentucky Means Paradise,” which peaked at No. 20. Campbell didn’t earn another Top 20 hit until “Burning Bridges,” which was the title track of his fifth studio album, was released in 1966. (Not that Campbell was working solely on his solo projects during this time: He also sang with the Beach Boys, filling in for an ailing Brian Wilson from the end of 1964 until the spring of 1965.)
The tunesmith earned his first No. 1 album with Gentle on My Mind, released in 1967. His following record, By the Time I Get to Phoenix, gave Campbell his first No. 1 hit; its title track earned the top spot on the Canadian country charts and peaked at No. 2 on the U.S. country charts. The success kicked off a series of hits for Campbell, including “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston,” “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Southern Nights.” To date, Campbell has earned nine No. 1 hits and sold more than 45 million albums.
The seasoned performer also enjoyed a successful career in TV. After starring on the syndicated TV show Star Route, Campbell developed a knack for appearing in front of the camera. He hosted a TV variety show called The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, which ran from 1969 to 1972 on CBS, and also appeared in several movies and TV shows, including True Grit, Norwood, Any Which Way You Can and Uphill All the Way.
LOOK: Glen Campbell Through the Years
Campbell continued performing and recording until he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011.
“I just take it as it comes,” Campbell says of the illness. “I know that I have a problem with that, but it doesn’t bother me. If you’re going to have it handed to you, you have got to take it, anyway. So that is the way I look at it.”
Campbell embarked on a Goodbye Tour following the diagnosis; his final show was on Nov. 30, 2012. In 2014, he was moved into a residential care facility when his wife Kim said that it was difficult to continue caring for him at home. He lived there until he died on Aug. 8, 2017.
A documentary, Glen Campbell … I’ll Be Me, was released in September of 2014. The film, which won the prestigious Gibson Music City / Music City Films Grand Jury Prize at the Nashville Film Festival, also had an accompanying five-song EP, followed by a full album in early 2015. One of the songs, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” which Campbell co-wrote and performed, won a 2015 Grammy Award for Best Country Song.
Campbell was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005. In 2012, he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
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