Glen Campbell: Forget Me Not Campbell is a legend who's losing his own history: The country singer, guitarist and former television host is in the early stages of Alzheimer's.
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Glen Campbell: Forget Me Not

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Glen Campbell: Forget Me Not

Glen Campbell: Forget Me Not

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LAURA SULLIVAN, host: Now, time for music, and a legend says farewell to his fans with one last tour and one last album.


GLEN CAMPBELL: (Singing) Like a ghost on a canvas, people don't see them...

SULLIVAN: In the album's liner notes, Glen Campbell writes that: "Ghost on the Canvas" is the last studio record of new songs that I ever plan to make. That's because he's now living through the early stages of Alzheimer's. A man whose music history spans six decades is slowly losing his own history, his memories of being one of L.A.'s top session guitarists, playing on everything from "Strangers in the Night" to "Good Vibrations" with a combo known as The Wrecking Crew.

CAMPBELL: I got to play with the best musicians that I had ever played with. I'll just go ahead and say it: Yeah, they were the best musicians in the world.


SULLIVAN: And of course, memories of his solo career that made him a household name.


CAMPBELL: (Singing) And the Wichita lineman is still on the line...

Everything is fine. You know, I'm cool. It's just a period I'm going through in my life, you know. I've had - hurt big toes worse than that.

SULLIVAN: At 75, Glen Campbell still retains his signature charm, his sense of humor. But more and more, he relies on his wife, Kim, for the details of his life.

CAMPBELL: I'm not going to let it get me down. Or it might get me down, I don't know. I don't even know what this is. What is it, Alzheimer's? What's an Alzheimer?

KIM CAMPBELL: It's where you start losing your memory.

CAMPBELL: I remember everything. I really do.

CAMPBELL: Well, we have good days and then some days are a little fuzzy.

CAMPBELL: Well, everybody has that now.

CAMPBELL: That's true.

SULLIVAN: Kim and Glen have been married for more than 25 years. She's his fourth wife, and she's the one credited with getting him off of the drugs and alcohol that derailed his once stellar career. Kim says that Glen's decision to share his diagnosis with the public didn't surprise her.

CAMPBELL: Well, Glen's always been really open about his life and his ups and downs, his struggle with drugs and finding God, and this is just a natural thing for him to do is to let his fans know what's going on in his life.


CAMPBELL: (Singing) I've tried and I have failed, Lord. I've won and I have lost. I've lived and I have loved, Lord, sometimes at such a cost.

JULIAN RAYMOND: It took us two and a half years to make "Ghost on the Canvas" just because we were really careful to find the songs, the right songs to say what he wanted to say because we really wanted it to be kind of, you know, indirectly kind of like a life story.

SULLIVAN: That's Julian Raymond. He's Glen Campbell's producer and co-writer on the album.

RAYMOND: It's sad knowing that, you know, probably he won't be doing this anymore. He won't be able to play that amazing guitar that he does and then sing with that beautiful voice and - but he's an upbeat, happy guy, and we didn't really think too much about it other than trying to make the best record that we could.


CAMPBELL: (Singing) Some days I'm so confused, Lord. My past gets in my way. I need the ones I love, Lord, more and more each day.

SULLIVAN: Julian Raymond helped Campbell write five of the album's songs, including this one. Now, Glen's never considered himself a songwriter, more of a song doctor, as he puts it. He works with the writer to bring out that Glen Campbell sound, and sometimes, the lyrics just fall out of him without his even knowing it. Again, Julian Raymond.

RAYMOND: Funny thing happened: we were standing in the kitchen of the studio one day, and then we were talking about his wife Kim. And she walked in the room actually while we were talking. And he goes, well, you know what, there's no me without her.


CAMPBELL: (Singing) There's no me without you...

RAYMOND: So, I mean, he always comes up with these little sayings, these little things, and I wrote them down. It really turned into the lyrics of a lot of these songs.

CAMPBELL: I was wondering why he was asking me so many questions.


CAMPBELL: (Singing) We shall be forever two. There's no me without you.

SULLIVAN: The album took a long time to record, but Julian Raymond says that had more to do with acquiring the right cover songs than with Glen's condition.

RAYMOND: We never had to stop a session because he wasn't on it. He did it. He just occasionally would get frustrated with himself and was: Why am I doing this? Why can I not remember this? This is so easy. I can do - you know? So he just got tough on himself sometimes.


CAMPBELL: (Singing) Always working, reaching out for a hand that we can't see. Everybody's got a hold on hope. It's the last thing that's holding me.

SULLIVAN: Glen Campbell is taking his new music on the road on a concert tour, perhaps for the last time in spite of his advancing memory loss.

RAYMOND: There were people in his inner circle that were concerned if this information came out that maybe people wouldn't book him for fear that he would have, you know, bad shows. There were concerns that it would hurt him. And since he decided to make the diagnosis public, it's been nothing but the opposite.

SULLIVAN: Doctors have told them that playing show after show might actually help Campbell. Playing guitar, singing, constantly flexing those muscles may improve his memory retention. Another benefit to life on the road, many of Glen Campbell's children perform in his backing band.

CAMPBELL: It's great playing with the kids, because, you know, I showed them how to play. And they - and all of them are just good, good players. So I look forward to go out on the road with them because...

CAMPBELL: I think they're really cherishing being out there with Glen, too, because, you know, this could be his farewell tour. And they try to be strong for each other, and that's what we're trying to do, you know, with our situation.


CAMPBELL: (Singing) This is not the road I wanted for us, but now that it's here, I want to make one thing perfectly clear. All I want to be for you is strong.

SULLIVAN: Glen Campbell's farewell album is called "Ghost on the Canvas." You can hear tracks at our website, Campbell's tour takes him and his family to Missouri and Arkansas next weekend.


CAMPBELL: (Singing) I'm going to be the one you can count on.

SULLIVAN: And for Saturday, that's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Laura Sullivan. Remember, you can hear the best of this program on our weekly podcast. Subscribe or listen at iTunes or at That's also where you can find our special extended podcast on New York's High Line Park this week. And we're back with a whole new hour of radio tomorrow. Until then, thanks for listening and have a great night.

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