Country Singer Glen Campbell Announces He Has Alzheimer's Disease

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • I grew up listening to Glen Campbell. I have this vague memory of my dad buying me an eight-track tape (remember those?) of Campbell’s best hits. He always had an emotive way of singing, whether it was “Galveston” or “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.” According to E! Online, Campbell sold 45 million albums, won four Grammys and hosted his own variety show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour on CBS. Now it’s been announced in an article in People that Glen Campbell has reached another milestone, but one that is much sadder – he’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 75.

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    This announcement helps put into perspective a recent Campbell performance with Jimmy Webb, who was the songwriter for Campbell’s hits “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston.”  Under the headline of “Glen Campbell gives mystifyingly bad show,” David Lindquist of reported on this concert, “Facing a sold-out audience nestled in a world-class room, Campbell came across as unprepared at best and disoriented at worst. He mangled lyrics (despite unabashed use of video prompts on three onstage monitors), clanged countless off-key guitar notes and generated zero rapport with the crowd. Campbell struggled to even communicate with long-running band leader T.J. Keunster. ‘What key? . . . Who wrote it? . . . I like this song,’ served as an evening-long mantra for Country Music Hall of Famer Campbell.”

    So Campbell seems to be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, which things that have been commonplace for him – whether it’s the lyrics or the guitar notes -- no longer come together.  Campbell’s wife, Kim, told People, "Glen is still an awesome guitar player and singer," says Kim. "But if he flubs a lyric or gets confused on stage, I wouldn’t want people to think, 'What's the matter with him? Is he drunk?' " Campbell has recorded a final album entitled “Ghost on the Canvas,” which is set to release in August, and is planning a series of farewell concerts supporting the album in the fall. According to E! Online, “Campbell said he wanted to perform live while his mind's still intact as a farewell to all those who've supported him over the years.”

    I commend Campbell for putting himself out there in what must be very frustrating circumstances. Hopefully, this announcement will provide the insight and compassion that will help fans, reporters and critics to realize the great talent they are losing, neuron by neuron, memory by memory. I’m sure that it will be a bittersweet concert tour for Campbell and his band, but I think it will open up even more eyes to the challenges faced by those with dementia.  And Campbell has even more to offer if he is willing to serve as an advocate and spokesman for Alzheimer’s when his performing days are over.

    But until that time, there are still his rendition of those haunting songs.  "I still love making music," said Campbell told reporters. "And I still love performing for my fans. I'd like to thank them for sticking with me through thick and thin."

Published On: June 22, 2011