Country singer Glen Campbell dies at 81

Rhinestone Cowboy singer Glen Campbell has died at the age of 81 after ‘a long and courageous battle’ with Alzheimer's disease, his family has said

Glen Campbell performs in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2012
Glen Campbell performs in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2012

The country singer Glen Campbell died on Tuesday at the age of 81 after living with Alzheimer’s for six years.

"It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved husband, father, grandfather, and legendary singer and guitarist, Glen Travis Campbell, at the age of 81, following his long and courageous battle with Alzheimer’s disease," Campbell’s family said in a statement.

A self-taught prodigy, Campbell rose from a poor rural childhood in Pike County, Arkansas, to release over 70 albums and sell 45 million records.

His first guitar cost $7 from a Sears catalogue and he whiled away the time teaching himself to play.

"We didn't have power in the house, but we did have an old battery radio. And whenever I heard a new song, usually on a local country station, I'd learn it," Campbell said.

His proficiency led to an offer to join a band fronted by his uncle, Dick Bills and the Sandia Mountain Boys. There were appearances on local radio and a spot on a children's TV channel.

Campbell moved to Los Angeles in 1960 and became a member of a group of musicians named The Wrecking Crew, who backed artists such as Dean Martin, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra.

The singer-songwriter, who was born in Arkansas, sold over 45 million records over the course of a career that spanned more than 60 years.

His first solo chart entry, Turn Round and Look at Me, reached 62 in the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961.

From 1969 to 1972, Campbell was the host of the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour on CBS, a music and comedy variety show that aired 91 episodes. Among his 80 songs that charted on the Billboard Hot 100 or Billboard Country charts were hits such as Rhinestone Cowboy, By the Time I Get to Phoenix and his cover of John Hartford’s Gentle on My Mind.

Campbell recorded his final studio album, Adios, in Nashville in 2012 and 2013 after his Alzheimer’s diagnosis; it was released in June this year.

He was also nominated for an Oscar in 2015 for a song from his documentary Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me.

Campbell is survived by his wife, Kim Campbell, and their three children, Cal, Shannon and Ashley, as well as Debby, Kelli, Travis, Kane and Dillon, his children from previous marriages.

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