Glen Campbell’s last public performance was an emotional one.
The famous country artist was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011. He then immediately organized his “Goodbye Tour” where he traveled and performed one last time before the disease would leave him unable to.
Campbell’s ‘Goodbye Tour’
His last performance was at the Uptown Theatre in Napa, California on November 30, 2012. For his last performance, he stood with his guitar, the band behind him, and performed his well-known, iconic song “Gentle on My Mind.”
Glen Campbell would go on to fight Alzheimer’s disease for six long years before passing away on August 8, 2017. His last song, so fitting yet so heartbreaking, seems like his own goodbye to having complete control over his genius and creative head.
“When they turn around and find that you’re moving / On the back roads, you’re still on my memory / You’re ever gentle on my mind / Yes, you are, baby Gentle on my mind, yeah / Gentle on my mind, yeah.”
The singer had started to see the effects of the disease while he was still touring. During the performance, you can see Campbell struggling in the beginning before powering through. He stood at the mic trying to clear his mind and pinpoint the lyrics to a song he had been singing since 1967. It was a heartbreaking moment, yet showed all of the strength Campbell still had.
The singer brought his wife and daughter with on his tour. “That was a really difficult day. It was difficult leading up to the show, it was really stressful and difficult. That night was really, really, really hard, and we just knew this was it. We were going home for the Christmas break, and that we were not gonna add more shows after that,” his wife, Kim Campbell said, according to Taste of Country.
He was put in a full-time care facility in Nashville before he passed at the age of 81.
Artists like Keith Urban, Jake Owen, and John Mayer all praised the musician for his profound impact on the music industry. Mayer even performed a cover of “Gentle on My Mind” where he called it his “favorite song in the world.”
James Keach created “I’ll Be Me,” a documentary about Campbell. It followed Campbell along on his farewell tour.
One particularly moving moment in the documentary is when Campbell is on stage at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. The TelePrompter went out and left him unable to sing or remember his lyrics. He joked with the crowd, making fun of his own memory loss.
His grace and his humor made him that much more likable.
“Music has always just flowed out of him from some inner source. It’s miraculous, really, because he doesn’t think about what he’s gonna play. It just flows out of him. And it continued to flow out of him throughout the whole tour,” Kim Campbell told NPR.
Glen Campbell as an Inspiration
Besides being an award-winning artist, Campbell was also the host of his own show, “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour” on CBS from the late ’60s to early ’70s. This allowed fans an extra look into his life, his personality, and his overall grace in front of the camera.
Campbell’s decision to tour while suffering from Alzheimer’s disease provided a powerful awareness of the illness. His family said he never felt ashamed. Rather, he used the last of his memory to be a jokester about his condition.
“And by the time he was done with the joking and regaling what he’d forgotten, he felt safe and everybody else felt safe, and it was an opportunity for the elephant to be in the room and to be okay with it, which is what we hope the movie will do for people. They’ll feel seen. They’ll feel empowered … And they’ll understand what many of us are going through in this world,” Kim Campbell said.
During his life, he released 64 albums in his five decades in the industry and sold over 45 million records. He has a total of 10 Grammys. He had Best Male Country Vocal Performance, Best Country & Western Recording, and Grammy Hall of Fame Awards for his song “Gentle on My Mind.”
His very last album was “Adiós” in 2017, although his family told the media that he did not understand or remember that it was released.