The Rushmore Report: Remembering Glen Campbell

This week we lost an American icon. Glen Travis Campbell, whose career spanned five decades, stepped into the presence of his God Tuesday morning. He is best known for his 70 albums, 45 million records sold, 12 gold albums, and nine #1 hits, along with his CBS show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour (1969-1972). But this isn’t about Glen Campbell the entertainer. It’s about Glen Campbell the man.

First, let’s get the award stuff out of the way. Campbell’s accolades are nearly unmatched in the music industry: Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, Grammy Hall of Fame, Male Vocalist of the Year (country and rock), Entertainer of the Year, actor (True Grit), TV star (Goodtime Hour), and record five Grammys in one year (1967). He was named TV Personality of the Year, Top Male Vocalist, and so much more.

But let’s talk about Glen Campbell the man.

He was my first favorite singer. He released my all-time favorite song, Galveston, on February 24, 1969. Being from Houston, somehow this song made me proud. I was just nine at the time, but I knew the song by heart. I still do. What was once a record in my bedroom nearly 50 years ago is now on my phone, where I can listen to it anytime.

I followed his career through the years. Like most people, I cherish the music I grew up with. That made me a huge fan of Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, and Glen Campbell. I saw all three in person. Beth and I were on the second row of Campbell’s final concert in Texas, in the Dallas area, ten years ago. Already suffering from Alzheimer’s, Campbell forgot the words to some of the songs, and clearly wasn’t sure where he was. But he could still sing. And he could still play the guitar. Man, could he play the guitar! I felt like a teenager all over again, sitting just feet from my childhood idol.

Glen Campbell was not a perfect human being. Maybe that’s why I identified with him. His three failed marriages, occasional jail time, and struggles with drug and alcohol addiction made him seem real. Like the rest of us, he battled his demons.

But unlike many of us, he won those battles. He found strength through his personal faith –  a strength he lacked earlier in his life.

Kim Campbell, his wife since 1983, said in an interview last year, “Faith has always been the central part of our relationship. I’m so pleased that as Glen has entered the later stages of this illness, it’s evident that he has retained his awareness of God.”

Kim continued, “That really comforts me to know that he has that sense of God’s presence in his life, that he’s not alone, even if I’m not right next to him.”

Today – and for all eternity – Glen Campbell is not alone. There is someone right next to him who will never go away.

For 50 years, the Rhinestone Cowboy blessed millions with what Dolly Parton called “one of the greatest voices of all time.” The man Tim McGraw called “special,” of whom Steve Martin said the music world was “in awe,” and who Peter Frampton called “one of the most down to earth people I have ever known” is now at rest with his Savior.

For Glen Travis Campbell, the seventh son of a seventh son, the temptations of drugs, alcohol, money, and fame have passed. But his memory endures.

The words of his most acclaimed song say it best.

“I’ve been walkin’ these streets so long, singin’ the same old song. I know every crack in these dirty sidewalks of Broadway. Where hustle’s the name of the game, and nice guys get washed away like the snow and the rain. There’s been a load of compromisin’ on the road to my horizon. But I’m gonna be where the lights are shinin’ on me. Like a rhinestone cowboy.”

Today, Glen Campbell is walking new streets, where hustle’s not the name of the game, where nice guys don’t get washed away. He has finished the road to his horizon. And at the end of that road, he has discovered lights that will never go out.

For 50 years, it was true. Campbell was “singin’ the same old songs” – Wichita Lineman, By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Gentle on My Mind, Dreams of the Everyday Housewife. Today, he is singing new songs.

Glen Campbell blessed millions with his music. But more than that, he taught us to never give up, to value family, and above all, to embrace faith. For now, I’ll keep “singin’ the same old songs.” One day, at the end of my own horizon, I will join Glen Campbell in heaven’s choir.

May we all walk the road to our horizon with the same dignity, grace, and faith as did Glen Travis Campbell.

The music continues . . .


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