Music legend Glen Campbell has gone silent with his descent into the final stages of Alzheimer's, but his new album is a beautiful parting gift from a multitalented performer.
- Posted on Jun 15, 2017
As the word slowly spread that singer Glen Campbell was in the latter stages of his battle with Alzheimer's disease, his fans came to terms with the fact his 2012 release, Ghost on the Canvas, and its 2013 followup, See You There, which revisited some of his biggest hits, would be the final releases the singer would share with the world.
As it turns out, though, that wasn't the case. The newly released Adiós is highlighted by a number of songs that Campbell has always loved to play but had never previously released on a record. Several are covers of familiar songs written or recorded by artists such as Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and George Jones. There are also four songs written by Jimmy Webb, the songwriter who composed some of Campbell's biggest hits, as well as musical collaborations with daughter Ashley Campbell, Vince Gill and Nelson.
Though these studio recordings were made shortly after Campbell's 2012 farewell tour, they had been put aside. As Campbell's wife, Kim, explained it, "To help cope with the trauma of watching Glen descend into late stages of dementia, we decided to crack open the vaults and take another listen to those basic tracks we had recorded. It only took a few minutes to be reminded of how good he sounded and how beautifully he interpreted each phrase. We realized immediately that it would be a shame to not finish this record. We had to share it with the world.”
The album's producer was Carl Jackson, a member of Campbell's band from 1972-84 (it was Jackson who set up Glen and Kim on their first blind date back in the day). Jackson acknowledges that the new record leans on older, familiar songs because by the time Campbell joined Jackson in the studio, his disease had progressed enough that the singer wasn't able to learn new material. But songs like Everybody's Talkin' and Funny How Time Slips Away were longtime Campbell favorites, songs he'd been playing and singing for pleasure for many years. By leaning on such familiar compositions, the recording went relatively smoothly and the results were good enough to convince everyone involved that they were up to Campbell's standards of excellence.
"[These songs] were just his go-tos, because they’re so much fun to play on guitar, in that Jerry Reed style," daughter Ashley told Chris Willman of Yahoo Music. "Because his short-term memory wasn’t so great, some of the songs we had to take line by line. But he had such a great time recording with Carl, because they’re friends that go way back.”
The album's tracks reveal a shared theme, given that most of the songs make reference to memory (or the loss of it), to feeling alone, to looking back at days gone by—all topics that carry a heightened resonance in songs performed by someone dealing with Alzheimer's. However, there was no intended theme or concept for the project, those behind the album insist; they were just striving to make an album that recaptured Campbell's classic sound and choosing songs that he was capable of recording.
Though Adiós isn't the result of Campbell's final stint in the studio—I'm Not Going to Miss You, the theme song for the tour documentary I'll Be Me, was the last song he recorded—it is a tribute, at once sad and hopeful, both touching and inspiring, to Campbell's rare musical gifts and the courage he's displayed as he has dealt with Alzheimer's.
"After being around him for all those years, to me, he was the golden boy of American music, just like Mickey Mantle was the golden boy of baseball," Adiós producer Jackson told Willman. "He was perfection when he sang...He was absolutely amazing as a vocalist, and I hope this album continues to show that.”