August 9, 2017 | Posted in General
I had a few things on the docket for this second installment of my weekly foray into all things human after taking six weeks off.
The list of possible subjects for 1200 words of insight, foresight and hindsight includes the best sandwich I’ve ever had, what it’s like to get back in the gym after a year, the seeming epidemic of broken turn signals, watching Johnny Carson again, what Kim Jung Un would look like with Trump’s hair and our great challenge with living ” a real life” when so much “produced reality” confuses our anterior reticulating system.
But all that can wait for another time.
Glen Travis Campbell passed away yesterday at the age of 81 from the ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease.
When I heard the news of his death, even though the whole world had been following his slow decline since he announced his struggle in 2010, my eyes welled up, and I stopped what I was doing and just sat for a few moments.
The voice that had us all singing “Galveston,” “Gentle On My Mind,” “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” and “Try A Little Kindness” had gone silent.
Those songs and many more, created a visceral connection to millions of people all over the world.
During his 50 years in show business, Campbell released more than 70 albums. He sold 45 million records and accumulated 12 RIAA gold albums, four platinum albums, and one double-platinum album. He placed a total of 80 different songs on either the Billboard Country Chart, Billboard Hot 100, or Adult Contemporary Chart, of which 29 made the top 10 and of which nine reached number one on at least one of those charts. Three of his early hits later won Grammy Hall of Fame Awards (2000, 2004, 2008), while Campbell himself won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. He owns trophies for Male Vocalist of the Year from both the Country Music Association (CMA) and the Academy of Country Music (ACM), and took the CMA’s top award as 1968 Entertainer of the Year.
Not bad for the seventh son of twelve children born into a sharecropper family in Arkansas and who learned to play the guitar when he was four years old.
As his awards were publicized, so was his battle with alcohol and drugs. A mug shot of him from those days shows a man in ” a very long dance with the devil” said Campbell.
He would overcome his inner demons with a renewed faith and his music.
As the disease progressed and he became a shell of his former vibrant self, friends like Alice Cooper remarked how his guitar became a lifeline to the talent the endeared him to fans, the instrument that brought him so much joy and according to Cooper, immense respect in the music industry.
“Eddie Van Halen knew that Glen and I played golf quite often and asked me once if I thought it might be possible for him to get a couple guitar lessons from Glen. That blew me away.”
I did what we all do when someone of name and note takes their final bow, immediately went to MeTube and yanked up a bunch of “Glen’s Greatest Hits” and for about an hour let the soundtrack of my life fill back up again as I thought about why I got emotional over hearing of his death.
Might have been the phone call I guess.
Back in 2008, when I was in the thick of it at Oprah Radio, putting Dr. Oz and Jean Chatzky through their radio paces, residing in the corner office that had a slew of celebs streaming by, my name on the door and with a business card that gave me more power than I deserved because of the word “Harpo” on it, the amount of “pitches” (people sharing their ideas, product or book to get placed on a show) was overwhelming. I tried to sort through it all best I could, as an author I have a soft spot for books and anyone that is trying to make the world a bit better had my ear.
One day by special delivery a small package arrived addressed to me, probably delivered by Ana Torres-and when I opened it up, there was a promotional CD inside, from Glen Campbell with a note.
“Hey John, I’d love to be on the Oprah Show, lets talk! GC”
I had nothing to do with getting anyone on The Oprah Winfrey Show and I wanted to let Mr. Campbell know right away of course so I called the number on the card with his business manager’s name on it and as mentioned before, anyone who was a producer calling from Harpo always got through on the first try. I remember when I was creating the John Denver Tribute for radio in 2007 I called George Bush Sr. at his office, was put on hold and his assistant picked up the phone, as I knew that Mr. Bush was a fan of JD’s and was inquiring to his availability in being a guest. A moment later the assistant came back on, said that Mr. Bush wasn’t able to participate but had a request. Next thing I know our 41st president is on the horn and said “Would you play Rocky Mountain High? I really enjoy that song.”
“Yes, Mr. President.”
So when Campbell’s business guy got on the phone I started to tell him that I appreciated the CD but I had zero sway in booking the Oprah Show, that I could perhaps get him a name or two and considering Glen Campbell’s near legendary status, it might work out. I also gushed on a bit about how much I enjoyed his music and path, including overcoming the demons of addiction, a hard fought lesson the world had witness to.
Next thing I hear is that earthy Arkansas twang, thanking me for taking the time to call and offer to help. Then he starts telling me how blessed he was to still be performing after all he had been through and how much the fans “kept me alive” when his life was at its lowest points.
Apparently I was on speaker phone, and Glen Campbell was in the office when I called.
I don’t remember the conversation after that, but what struck me is that he took the time to sit in his office, next to his business manager, put his name on countless sticky notes that had been sent to various media outlets in order to continue on with his work.
Somewhere I still have that demo CD.
Campbell once said in an interview that he felt he had “a gift from God” in the form of a guitar and that his goal with every note was to “lift people up in some way.”
No question he paid back the Almighty for entrusting him with such a task.
At the end of the day, I concluded that my emotion was in response to the incredible talent he had, that he shared with the world and the one thing that kept him alive when so much was being taken from him.
It’s a lesson, a reminder and blessing all at once.