DC at Night

DC at Night

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Farewell, Glen Campbell

Galveston, oh Galveston
I'm so afraid of dying
                               --- Glen Campbell

Glen Campbell with daughter Ashley by his side performs
When I first heard these words, I was a 17-year-old senior in high school with the spinning 45s of AM radio forming a soundtrack for the uncharted life ahead of me and Glen Campbell was in the midst of a string of hits that would make him one of the legends of modern music. Gentle or not, living, not dying, was on our minds. Dying was the province of ancient grandparents and elderly neighbors.

However, last night at the Birchmere music hall, those same words took on a much different tone. For now, I'm a 60-year-old grandfather and retiree living in D.C. And Campbell, now 76 and diagnosed with worsening Alzheimer's Disease, is in the midst of what will certainly be his final farewell tour.

Campbell's performance, the 2nd of 2 consecutive sellouts at the Birchmere, enthralled his fans who came to hear favorite hits and pay tribute to the man who made them. Despite some missed notes here and there, the crowd rose after every one of Campbell's guitar solos, clapping, cheering, and calling "we love you, Glen."

As for the hits, consider this. Campbell opened with this trio - "Gentle on My Mind," "Galveston," and "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," and closed with this 3-pack - "Wichita Lineman,"  "Rhinestone Cowboy," and "Southern Nights." (To see the complete set list, click here).

At several points, Campbell made light of his malady. Encroaching age made him leave the stage in the middle of the set for an unscheduled bathroom break. But it was clear that Campbell was enjoying this chance to say goodbye. His enjoyment was heightened by the fact that 3 members of his 6-member backing band were his own children. "I'm up here playing with my kids and it doesn't get any better than that," he said.

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
Many people believe Glen Campbell should be enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, if not on his own then as a virtuoso session guitarist. There's no doubt that some of Campbell's songs rank with the best on the music charts.  "Wichita Lineman" was named one of the greatest songs of the 20th Century by Mojo magazine. "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" has been recorded and released by artists as diverse as Isaac Hayes, Reba McIntyre, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. But before his own hits, Campbell was a session guitarist who played on some of the all-time biggies. Here are 6 that make him eligible for rock and roll hall consideration:
  • Viva Las Vegas - Elvis Presley
  • Strangers in the Night - Frank Sinatra
  • Good Vibrations - The Beach Boys
  • You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' - The Righteous Brothers
  • The Sound of Silence - Simon and Garfunkel
  • I'm a Believer - The Monkees

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