Legendary country singer Glen Campbell died Tuesday after a lengthy and public battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Publicist Sandy Brokaw confirmed the death to reporters, saying Mr. Campbell died at a Nashville Alzheimer’s facility surrounded by family members.
The 81-year-old singer had a career stretching back five decades and was both one of the biggest stars in country music, where he broke through in the 1960s with classics like “Gentle on My Mind,” “Galveston” and “Wichita Lineman,” and a force on the pop charts in the 1970s with No. 1 hits like “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Southern Nights.”
“I did what my dad told me to do — ‘Be nice, son, and don’t cuss. And be nice to people.’ And that’s the way I handled myself, and people were very, very nice to me,” he said in a 2011 interview, around the time of his Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
In 2014, after five decades on the road, he was featured in a hit documentary film, “I’ll Be Me,” which showed him on a 2012 farewell tour struggling with Alzheimer’s, which affected both his memory and his ability to perform.
The film also shows his final recording sessions, in which Mr. Campbell was determined, his wife, Kim, said, to preserve “what magic was left.” Those sessions yielded his last album, “Adios,” which was released in April.
Dolly Parton, another 1960s country star who crossed over into pop and acting roles, tweeted, “One of the greatest voices of all time. I will always love you, Glen!”
“In a world of good stuff, his was great, in a world of great stuff, his was special,” tweeted country singer Tim McGraw.
“A courageous advocate on behalf of Alzheimer’s, not only bravely sharing his diagnosis with the world, but continuing to bring joy to his fans through his music while facing the disease so publicly,” said Harry Johns, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Mr. Campbell burst onto the scene in the mid-1960s and won an unprecedented four Grammys in the pop and country categories for 1967 — “Gentle on My Mind” winning in the country categories and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” winning in pop.
He also has been named male vocalist of the year and entertainer of the year by the major country awards organizations and was voted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005. He won 10 Grammys over his career, including a lifetime achievement award in 2012.
He crossed musical genres — once describing himself as “not a country singer per se [but] a country boy who sings.” He was a member of Phil Spector’s “Wrecking Crew,” opened for the Doors, played on hits by the Righteous Brothers, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, and even toured as a bassist with the Beach Boys after Brian Wilson stopped going out on the road.
“I didn’t go to Nashville because Nashville at that time seemed one-dimensional to me,” he told The Associated Press. “I’m a jazzer. I just love to get the guitar and play the hell out of it if I can.”
Beyond music, Mr. Campbell was also a presence in movies and television, hosting a music-and-comedy variety program, “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour,” from 1969 to 1972. His genial presence made the show a rerun hit years later on CMT.
His most notable film role came as a Texas Ranger opposite John Wayne in the 1969 western “True Grit.” Not only did the Duke win his only Academy Award for that role, but Mr. Campbell shared in the wealth, singing the titular theme that nabbed a nomination for best song.
Mr. Campbell was nominated for an best song Oscar personally for co-writing “I’m Not Gonna Miss You.” It was the last song he ever recorded and appears in “I’ll Be Me.”
His last televised performance came at the 2012 Grammys, when he brought the crowd to tears with a rendition of “Rhinestone Cowboy” that showed both the effects of the illness everyone knew would kill him and the singer’s determination to defy the disease anyway.
Mr. Campbell was born in Pike County, Arkansas, on April 22, 1936, in a sharecropping family of 12 children. He married four times and had eight children, including three with his current wife of 35 years, Kim.
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