Glen Campbell's upcoming tour is called "Good Times: the Final Farewell." It's a title in keeping with his sensibility as he's been known throughout his career for a positive mix of light humor and upbeat country music. But even while he joked on stage, Campbell suffered major life and work setbacks – failed albums, a stalled movie career, three divorces and years of alcohol and drug abuse. Now he's facing a new challenge – Alzheimer's disease, diagnosed earlier this year.
Campbell and his wife of 28 years, Kim, are talking about his illness as he begins the tour and releases his final album, Ghost On The Canvas, because they want to help other couples facing Alzheimer's, while also celebrating Campbell's substantial musical legacy.
The 75-year old singer and guitarist has sold more than 45 million albums worldwide, with 21 songs cracking Billboard's top 40, most notably "Wichita Lineman." As a sought-after session guitarist in the 1960's, he appeared on hundreds of other hit singles by a variety of performers, including the Beach Boys, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. In 2005, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He even co-starred with John Wayne in the 1969 version of True Grit.
Ghost On The Canvas is a stirring song cycle that covers the arc of Campbell's life: from his boyhood in Arkansas, to his career and personal triumphs and failures, and ultimately to his conquest of drugs and alcohol. The record features songs written specifically for the album by younger artists, including Jakob Dylan and Paul Westerberg.
From their home in Malibu, Calif., Campbell and his wife talked about the new album, his career, and how he and his family are approaching his most difficult challenge yet – Alzheimer's disease.
Q: Apart from the album and tour what's motivating you to talk now? What do you want people to know?
Glen: I'm happy. I'm fine. I'm playing music. I'm really proud of the new record – I think it's one of the best things I've done. I'm excited about going on tour with my kids. What do I have to complain about?
Kim: Finishing the record and getting ready for the tour have been really good for him. The [Campbell] kids have their own pop group, Instant People, and so they'll do their own set and then back up Glen. It's a good way for us to be together. He's singing great, his guitar playing is amazing. And we're really blessed to be able to continue doing this for as long as we can. But we're preparing to get off the road when we need to. In terms of the Alzheimer's, at this point, it's mostly minor annoyances, forgetting little things day to day. I think playing music has the potential to slow down the progression of the Alzheimer's. He's staying active and he's happy.
Q: What can people learn from the way you and Kim are working together with you having Alzheimer's?
Glen: You know, whatever comes along, comes along. Just take it as it comes. And Kim has been amazing through all this, so I just listen to her.
Kim: The Alzheimer's, the drinking in the past, and everything we've gone through that's been challenging – the only way we could have done it is through our faith in God, and having a strong support group of family and friends. I think it's important to belong to a community of faith, a congregation. We're hoping that we can be an encouragement to other people who have Alzheimer's, and really, any other challenges.