When I was a teenager I enjoyed watching the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour with my neighbor. I wasn’t a fan of Campbell, but I had a crush on John Hartford, the quiet banjo picker who wrote Campbell’s signature song, Gentle on My Mind. Campbell was quite popular in those days; I never felt I could escape him. When a brother-in-law gave me guitar lessons, I plucked away at the Witchita Lineman or By the Time I Get to Phoenix. I had no ear for music, didn’t know how to tune a guitar and then my sister and brother-in-law divorced. For me, a face-saving end to an unpromising musical career.
I occasionally heard of Campbell after his career seemed to stall amid some troubles: a tabloid-esque affair with Tanya Tucker, cocaine, DUIs. I resented how he had presented himself as such a good old boy when he was no better than the rest. And then, in 2011, I heard he had Alzheimer’s and all I could think was, “Oh, no, not him.”
I had grown up with Glen Campbell. My complicated feelings toward him, I realized, were so much like the complicated feelings I have toward anyone I’ve grown up with. He was like that much older brother that you regularly get pissed off with, but can’t quite turn your back on.
Sometime after his death, I had an opportunity to watch a documentary about Campbell, I’ll Be Me. I watched the first thirty minutes and then turned it off. That’s not how I want to remember him.
Recently I came across this video. Roy Orbison is another favorite of mine, and I love Campbell’s rendition. More than that, I love watching Campbell’s joy in singing and playing. That’s how I’ll remember him.