Glen Campbell was as smooth as they come.
Whether he was singing, picking, penning, acting, or hosting, Glen had a seemingly effortless genius.
Glen, 81, died on Aug. 8, 2017, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. On what would be his 85th birthday today on April 22, 2021, let’s take a look at five clips that highlight just how smooth the Country Music Hall of Fame member was.
It’s almost impossible to definitively pick Glen’s signature song. He had at least a handful, including “Gentle on My Mind,” “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Wichita Lineman,” and “Galveston.”
But for my money, it doesn’t get any better vocally than Glen singing his 1969 No. 1 hit, “Galveston.” Jimmy Webb’s beautiful lyric about a Vietnam War-era soldier leaving his Texas hometown coupled with Glen’s rich vocal is a stunner: “Galveston, oh Galveston, I am so afraid of dying…”
Picking – ‘Gentle On My Mind’
In 1999, Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium played host to Ryman Country Homecoming, a TV special that featured a who’s who of country talent telling stories and performing songs. During his performance of “Gentle On My Mind,” Glen decided to “play one,” referring to a guitar break.
Before he was a bona fide country star, Glen, a member of the famed Wrecking Crew, was one of the most talented session musicians with a guitar pick. Watch the priceless reactions of Roy Clark, Chet Atkins, Crystal Gayle and more during Glen’s prodigious picking.
Hosting – ‘Goodtime Hour’
After winning the 1968 CMA Entertainer of the Year award, Glen scored a gig hosting The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. The prime-time variety show aired on CBS from 1969 to 1972.
The affable host starred in comedic skits and helped showcase a host of cross-genre musical talent. “The network executives wanted big stars,” Glen wrote in his 1994 autobiography. “All I wanted was talent. I had Seals & Crofts, Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings on the show before they achieved national fame.”
Watch Glen and Willie perform “Hello Walls” in 1969. Of course, Faron Young scored a hit with the Willie-penned tune in 1961.
Acting – ‘Any Which Way You Can’
Glen never considered himself an actor, but that didn’t stop him from hitting the silver screen opposite John Wayne in 1969’s True Grit as Texas Ranger LaBoeuf.
While True Grit garnered “The Duke” his only Oscar, we prefer Glen’s more natural performance as a bar singer in Clint Eastwood’s 1980 flick, Any Which Way You Can.
Writing – ‘I’m Not Gonna Miss You’
When Glen revealed he was suffering from Alzheimer’s in 2011, a documentary about his farewell tour was already in the works. Glen Campbell: Ill Be Me, which focused around the tour and his battle with the disease, was released in 2014.
The heart-wrenching production featured the touching tribute song, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You.” Co-penned by Glen and Julian Raymond, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” was named Best Country Song at the 2015 Grammy Awards.