After a protracted, admirably public battle with the ravages of Alzheimer's disease, the musician/actor Glen Campbell, died today. Rolling Stone printed a statement from Campbell's family: "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."
It would be hard to overstate just how famous and beloved Campbell once was. Born to a family of Arkansas sharecroppers, he moved out West while still a teenager and found early success as a guitar player with the famed L.A. session musician group known as the Wrecking Crew, playing on countless generation-defining hit singles of the mid-'60s. Campbell went on to a major career as a hitmaker in his own right, singing indelible songs like "Galveston," "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Gentle On My Mind," and "Rhinestone Cowboy." He hosted his own TV variety show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, from 1969-72, co-starred with John Wayne in the original film version of True Grit, and spent more than four decades as a concert headliner around the world.
Though Campbell's conservative politics and Christian beliefs were out of step with the fashion of his era (and often not in keeping with his own behavior), his best music has continued to strike a deep chord with listeners across the ideological spectrum—and is widely credited with building the now well-trod bridge between the country and pop music audiences. as evidenced by the sold out crowds at his farewell tour—documented in the 2014 documentary I'll Be Me.
But even if the only thing he had ever done was sing "Wichita Lineman," Glen Campbell's life would still have been worth celebrating.