Glen Campbell: The Rhinestone Cowboy
Documentary telling Glen Campbell's life story, from impoverished childhood through success as a guitarist and singer, fall from grace in the 80s and Alzheimer's diagnosis in 2011.
In 2011, Glen Campbell announced he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and that he would be bowing out with a final album and farewell tour across Britain and America. This documentary tells Campbell's remarkable life story, from impoverished childhood in Arkansas through huge success first as a guitarist and then as a singer, with great records like Wichita Lineman and Rhinestone Cowboy. With comments from friends and colleagues including songwriter Jimmy Webb and Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees, it's a moving story of success, disgrace and redemption as rich as any of the storylines in Campbell's most famous songs.
The peak of Glen Campbell's career was in 1975 when he topped the charts around the world with Rhinestone Cowboy, but his musical journey to that point is fascinating. A self-taught, teenage prodigy on the guitar, by his mid-twenties Campbell was one of the top session guitarists in LA, a key member of the band of session players now known as the Wrecking Crew. He played on hundreds of tracks while working for producers like Phil Spector and Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, including Daydream Believer by the Monkees, You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling by the Righteous Brothers, Strangers in the Night by Frank Sinatra and Viva Las Vegas by Elvis Presley.
But Campbell always wanted to make it under his own name. A string of records failed to chart until, in 1967, he finally found his distinctive country pop sound with hits like Gentle on My Mind and By the Time I Get to Phoenix. The latter was written by Jimmy Webb and together the two created a string of great records like Wichita Lineman and Galveston. Campbell pioneered country crossover and opened the way for artists like Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers.
By the end of the 1960s, Campbell was the fastest rising star in American pop with his own television show and a starring role in the original version of True Grit. Over the following ten years, he had more success with Rhinestone Cowboy and Southern Nights, but his private life was in turmoil. Divorce, drink and drugs saw this clean-cut all-American hero fall from grace and a tempestuous relationship with country star Tanya Tucker was front-page news.
Despite a relapse in 2003, when he was arrested for drunk-drinking and his police mug shot shown around the world, the last two decades have been more settled. He remarried, started a new family and renewed his Christian faith, and musically was rediscovered by a new generation. Like his friend Johnny Cash, he released acclaimed new albums with young musicians, covering songs by contemporary artists like U2 and the Foo Fighters. Therefore the diagnosis with Alzheimer's was all the more poignant, but his dignified farewell has made him the public face of the disease in the USA.
The film includes contributions by many of Campbell's friends and colleagues, including his family in Arkansas, fellow session musicians Carol Kaye and Leon Russell, long-time friend and collaborator Jimmy Webb, former Monkee Mickey Dolenz, broadcaster Bob Harris, lyricist Don Black and country music writer Robert Oermann.