On this day back in 1969, country artist Glen Campbell recorded his song “Galveston.”
Glen Campbell Releases Jimmy Webb Song
The song was recorded at Capitol Studios, Hollywood in California. It was written by Jimmy Webb and would be Campbell’s third No.1 hit. After being recorded in January, it was released the next month.
Webb also wrote the songs “By The Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Wichita Lineman” for Campbell during his career.
In 2017, Glen Campbell died after a long fight with Alzheimer’s disease. However, in 2011 Jimmy Webb reflected on his memories of working with the iconic country artist. This was right around the time Campbell did his “Goodbye Tour” from 2011 to 2012, right as the disease started to affect him in order to give fans one last set of live performances.
“Glen was very, very good at commercializing my songs. He could come up with great intros and great solos, great breaks, and he wrote perfect strings, because he wrote very little. It was a minimalist approach and it just left Glen out there with the song and the guitar. I tended to write a little bit more as an arranger, and probably too much. So I could have done better to have stayed out of Glen’s way, I think,” Webb said to Song Facts.
The song was honored in 2003 by CMT as one of country music’s top 100 songs. It also had RIAA gold certification the year of its release.
Meaning of ‘Galveston’
So, what does the hit song mean?
Webb wrote it while he was on a beach in Galveston, a city on the coast of Texas. It was a made-up story about a Spanish-American soldier leaving behind a girl as he goes off to war.
The slow-tempo, emotionally in-tune song tells the story of a first love cut short. It takes away the focus of the war on politicians and the protestors but puts it back on the individuals living through it. This song explores the struggles of being taken from a place you love and placed in a distant hell.
For many people, this was considered an anti-war song. It was released right in the midst of the Vietnam War and has lyrics that would suggest a distaste for war and conflict. The promo video for the song also showed Campbell wearing a military outfit.
“Galveston, oh Galveston, I still hear your sea waves crashing / While I watch the cannons flashing / I clean my gun and dream of Galveston.”
The song is “about a guy who’s caught up in something he doesn’t understand and would rather be somewhere else.”
According to Wide Open Country, Campbell recorded the song after Hawaiian singer Don Ho had released it as a more pop-sounding song in 1968 with little success. Campbell’s version had a slower tempo and a change in lyrics. The soldier cleans the gun at the end of the song instead of putting it down.
This represents the will to continue on in the face of adversity and challenge, something Glen Campbell was familiar with himself later in life.