Adios, Rhinestone Cowboy
Recently, singer/guitarist Glen Campbell left the building for the last time. Even though we’ve been aware for several years of the once-brilliant musician’s battle with Alzheimer’s (especially here in Nashville, where he had lived), it still comes as a terrible gut-punch, a sad reminder that we’re saying goodbye with increasing frequency to many of music’s most brilliant legends. And it hurts.
It’s not as if every generation doesn’t endure this. Superstars come and go; icons age out of the spotlight’s glow all the time, passing the torch to younger performers and new audiences. And of course, unexpected tragedies rob the world of creative giants all too frequently (e.g., Prince or Michael Jackson). But this is more subtle. This is Father Time reminding us again that nothing lasts forever—especially our youth, or the heroes who provided the soundtrack for it—as if we needed another sober nudge.
If you’re a little young to appreciate Glen Campbell’s impact, or thought he was just another passé crooner, here’s why he mattered. He was an A-Team session guitarist, part of L.A.’s famed Wrecking Crew, recording with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and the Monkees. He toured with the Beach Boys, filling in for Brian Wilson. TV’s Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour was a 4-year hit for CBS, exposing his monster guitar chops to the world. And oh yeah, he recorded several of the most-played pop hits—now standards—of the late 1960s and ’70s.
Of course there were movies, concerts, Las Vegas and all the typical performance venues of that generations’ stars. And while his voice made him a Hollywood star, his brilliant guitar playing validated him to a generation raised on rock. He was inspiring: fast, clean, tasteful and occasionally flashy, Campbell could keep up with anybody. Not just another pretty singer, Glen Campbell was the real deal.
So for anyone who remembers life before auto-tune, sampling, boy bands, rap and all the other trends that have lowered music’s evolutionary bar, it’s particularly sad to say adios to another legitimate talent. There will be more (we’re fortunate to see truly brilliant musicians come through our door often), but still, we’re sorry to wave goodbye to the Rhinestone Cowboy. So long, Glen, and thanks for all the great music.