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Glen Campbell, A Legacy To Remember

Young Glen Campbell
Young Glen Campbell

    Sadly, the passing of Glen Campbell did not come as a surprise. He had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2010 and his family made his struggle public with the 2014 documentary, Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me. His fans and the public knew his death was inevitable and that it was only a matter of time.
    When I saw that he had passed, the love and admiration that his contemporaries spoke of him was inspiring. I truly did not realize his complete legacy. Listening to the likes of Brad Paisley and Reba McEntire explain what Campbell meant to them opened my eyes to a new side of his career.
    As I was looking at tributes pour in while spinning some of my Glen Campbell vinyl, I became surprised at who the tributes were coming from. It was not the country stars that surprised me; I knew he was a certifiable country legend. He had charted at least 26 top ten singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs while making nearly 80 albums. He was the foundation of country music during the 1960’s and 1970’s.
    Then I ran across a rather odd tweet about Campbell that made me stop. It was from Cher saying how she enjoyed her time working with him. Now, it may just be me, but I do not find Cher and Campbell to be remotely related musically, except for the fact they both sing.
    I began to look over Glen Campbell’s career and I immediately was taken aback. His impact went far beyond country music. I was short changing him.
    At the beginning of his career, Campbell was a studio musician for the likes of music’s biggest artists including Elvis Presley, Bobby Darrin, and Jody Miller. During the mid 1960’s, he even became a temporary replacement for Brian Wilson in the Beach Boys. He did not seem like just a country boy anymore.
    As Campbell’s solo career took off, he became the original cross over artist. Although all his albums remained country in genre, his hits were at home on the pop charts as well. He charted 7 top 20 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, including the number one hits “Southern Nights” and “Rhinestone Cowboy.” Not to mention, he also placed 26 albums on the Billboard 200. He proved that talent could not be restricted to any category.
    CBS quickly saw this early in Campbell’s career granting him a variety show that lasted 4 seasons. This gave him the vehicle his talent needed. Not only did this show the breadth of his solo talents, but it also showcased just how versatile he was. The guests ranged from Donny Osmond to Stevie Wonder. He even sang selections out of the Great American Songbook with Liza Minnelli.
    It was not just the fact that he preformed among these groundbreaking performers, it is how he did it. A quick YouTube search will turn up many of these performances, which Campbell breezes naturally through. It was second nature. Country music may have been his choice of genre to release albums, but in the end he was simply a performer of music.
    Campbell has also been praised by some of music’s greatest guitar players as being one of the best pickers himself. When he received his Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and performed “Rhinestone Cowboy” at the 2012 Grammy awards ceremony, Paul McCartney can be seen singing and dancing along to each lyric. Moments after Campbell’s performance, McCartney went back stage to praise him for his musical legacy and talent. The tributes from famed guitarists like Lenny Kravitz, Paul Stanley, and Peter Frampton rolled in after his death, each praising him on his “brilliant” guitar skills. Is there an area that Campbell’s influence did not touch in the musical realm?
    In short, it is easy to sum up Campbell’s career. Throughout his tenure, he performed with the likes of Liberace, Shirley Jones, Three Dog Night, and Tennessee Ernie Ford. He worked in the studio with many legendary musicians, including The Mamas and the Papas, Frank Sinatra, The Monkees, and Phil Spector. He is also hailed as one of the greatest guitar players by members of a little known group, The Beatles. Not a bad roster.
    Recently, Alice Cooper summed up Glen Campbell perfectly after his death by stating, “You think of Glen as country. Alice Cooper as rock and roll. We couldn’t have been closer.”  Campbell’s talents and innovative insights in music led him to not only be a universal star, but proved that music is as music does.
    In the end, music is a universal language that transforms into many different shapes to act as an outlet for every emotion. Many can do one, but not all.
    Campbell’s legacy will continue to be realized in years to come as music continues to evolve. The day Campbell passed, the world didn’t just lose another great musician, it lost a piece of music; a piece of music that has no shape or form, just purpose for anyone who listens.

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