For those who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, the amazing voice of Glen Campbell might ring a bell. Born in Billstown, Arkansas, in 1936, this country boy from a poverty-stricken family used to pick up cotton for pennies and got his first Sears guitar at the age of 4 as a gift from his dad.
From dropping out of school to forming his own band, Campbell taught himself to play guitar by listening to legends such as Django Reinhardt. No one, and certainly not Campbell, ever thought that stardom was awaiting him.
After a long and storied career, however, the great voice of country was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2010. However, before he retired from music, Campbell came back for one last song in 2013, called “I’m Not Gonna Miss You.”
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Campbell had already made plans to tour the country in support of what would be one of his final albums, Ghost on the Canvas (2010), when he received his diagnosis. It was difficult to know what to do, but Campbell’s wife of over 30 years, Kim Campbell told CBN that the great musician didn’t have any doubts. “Glen said ‘I’m going to go out and do my tour. I feel fine.'”
To make things even more special, he and Kim Campbell’s children, Cal, Shannon, and Ashley, joined his band and were up onstage with him during the entire tour. While his family was obviously concerned about the effects that the Stage 2 Alzheimer’s might have on his ability to perform, they decided to tell the public about what Campbell was battling.
“We were worried, you know,” Kim Campbell told CBN. “Is anybody going to want to come out and see somebody who has Alzheimer’s? Maybe they don’t want to remember Glen not at the top of his game.” But come did they did, and Campbell’s shows sold out one after another.
Happy 34th anniversary to Glen and Kim Campbell!
When asked what the experience of touring with Alzheimer’s was like, his wife, Kim, explained that there was something inside of her husband that kept him going even when his memory was failing him. “Offstage, he was saying, ‘do we have a show tonight? […] I would think, ‘How is this man going to go on stage and do a show?'” But once it was time to perform, this music legend knew exactly what to do. “The minute the lights came up and he heard the applause, it was like automatic pilot.”
After the hugely successful tour, Campbell, his family, and fellow musicians appeared in a documentary called I’ll Be Me (2013), which told the story of his experience with Alzheimer’s. As Kim Campbell told CBN: “We’re hoping that film serves to remove the stigma from Alzheimer’s.”
Using Glen Campbell’s story, the family wanted to help people with the condition feel less alone. “If people get a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, they don’t need to be embarrassed about it. We just hope that people continue living their lives and let people around them know that they need help.”
But after Glen Campbell’s last tour, there was one thing left to do before he went. Musician and producer Julian Raymond proposed the idea to the director of I’ll Be Me, James Keach. They decided to call the song “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” a funny and poignant title inspired by Campbell himself.
As Raymond explained to the Wall Street Journal, “[Campbell] had a hard day of people asking him about Alzheimer’s and how he felt about it. He didn’t talk too much about it, but came up to me and said, ‘I don’t know what everybody’s worried about. It’s not like I’m going to miss anyone, anyway.'”
The video for this heartbreaking song shows Campbell in the studio surrounded by “The Wrecking Crew,” a group of legendary studio musicians who recorded with many of the most famous artists of all time. With the opening words, reflecting the difficulty of living with his condition, “I’m still here but yet I’m gone / I don’t play guitar or sing my songs,” Campbell brought tears to the eyes of fans.
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But the song isn’t just about loss; it’s about love. Campbell sings to his beloved wife, Kim, who was with him every step of the way. “You’re the last face I will recall and best of all, I’m not gonna miss you.”
Glen Campbell finally lost his fight with Alzheimer’s, passing away in 2017, but his final song won a Grammy for Best Country Song in 2015. Most of all, he left behind a love letter for his wife and children, who carry on his legacy.