Glen Campbell, the “Rhinestone Cowboy,” country music legend, hitmaker, and TV star, is dead at 81.
“It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved husband, father, grandfather, and legendary singer and guitarist … following his long and courageous battle with Alzheimer’s disease,” the singer’s family said in a statement.
In his six-decade career, Campbell won four Grammys and sold millions of records. His often romantic and sentimental country-pop hits, driven by his smooth tenor, layered arrangements, and twangy guitar, included “Gentle on My Mind,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Southern Nights,” “Try A Little Kindness,” “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” and “Galveston.”
But perhaps his most intimate song was his last, released in 2014. Titled “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” it chronicled the singer’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease, a diagnosis he announced to the public in 2011.
In the vein of Loretta Lynn’s “Who’s Gonna Miss Me?” and Johnny Cash’s rendition of “Hurt,” the song’s lyrics grapple with mortality: “I’m still here, but yet I’m gone / I don’t play guitar or sing my songs / They never defined who I am / The man that loves you ’til the end / You’re the last person I will love / You’re the last face I will recall / And best of all, I’m not gonna miss you.”
Julian Campbell, an American music producer who co-wrote the song, told the Wall Street Journal in 2015 that the lyrics came out of something Campbell said after his diagnosis:
[Campbell] had a hard day of people asking him about Alzheimer’s and how he felt about it. He didn’t talk too much about it, but came up to me and said, ‘I don’t know what everybody’s worried about. It’s not like I’m going to miss anyone, anyway.’
The song, the last Campbell ever recorded, was written for the documentary “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me,” which follows the singer-songwriter’s 151-show farewell tour and the way he and his family dealt with the Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The song’s music video includes family photos, scenes from hospital visits and of Campbell’s last appearances on stage.
In 2015, Tim McGraw performed the song in Campbell’s honor at the Oscars.
“Music utilizes all of the brain, not just one little section of it,” Campbell’s wife, Kim, told Rolling Stone Country before McGraw’s performance. “Everything’s firing all at once. It’s really stimulating and probably helped him plateau and not progress as quickly as he might have. I could tell from his spirits that it was good for him. It made him really happy. It was good for the whole family to continue touring and to just keep living our lives. And we hope it encourages other people to do the same.”