Glen Campbell, whose music has been described as "the cornerstone in the history of country music," released his final studio album last fall, which USA Today listed as one of the top 10 of 2011. Campbell enlisted his friend record producer Julian Raymond to make the album, "Ghost on the Canvas," which includes songs specifically written for Campbell. The songs are snapshots of his life and career.
Here for example are some of the lyrics to "A Better Place":
"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/One thing I know the world's been good to me/A better place awaits/You'll see."
What those lyrics provide a snapshot of are Campbell dealing with Alzheimer's disease. He announced his affliction last summer when people started gossiping that he was forgetting the lyrics to his own songs, such as "Rhinestone Cowboy," "Southern Nights"
"Witchita Lineman," "By the time I get to Phoenix," and "Galveston."
The news of Campbell suffering from Alzheimer's saddens me, as I've been a big fan of his music and have followed his career for decades. We are contemporaries. There is another reason why his news saddens me. I live daily with a family member who has Alzheimer's. I am one of his three caregivers. Personally, I know what it is like to live with this disease on a daily basis and to see the changes in the mind and body of a loved one.
A few years ago, I traveled with a female friend, who lives in St. Louis, to
Bransom, Mo., a popular tourist destination for those who love live music performances. That summer, Campbell was performing at the Andy Williams Theatre, so I got to enjoy live entertainment by two of my favorite singers. It was a fun experience because the audience was filled with fans truly appreciative of the long-standing careers of both Campbell and Williams. It was obvious the two were past their prime, but their performances brought back fond memories of my youth. At that time, Campbell's oldest daughter, who I suspect is now over 50, was hawking her father's CDs in the theatre before the show. I did not know it was his daughter until later in the show, when she appeared on stage and performed with her father.
When I heard about Campbell's affliction and the announcement last fall that he was embarking on his farewell tour across the country, I decided to check out his schedule to see if he was performing nearby. As luck would have it, he was scheduled to perform at Town Hall in Manhattan the Saturday that I decided to spend the weekend in the city to celebrate my birthday.
My luck continued when MetroEntertainment, which is based in South Windsor, asked if it could bump up my balcony seat ticket to a second row orchestra seat that had become available -- I couldn't believe it.
Prior to entering the theatre I stood outside with other lucky ticketholders because Campbell's concert was sold out and many fans were seeking tickets. Also, a film crew was outside interviewing people for a documentary that is being made chronicling Campbell's life, career and farewell tour. Made by filmmakers Trevor Albert and James
Keach, the documentary is scheduled for release in 2013.
As a typical journalist/groupie, I started talking to the cameraman who decided to interview me on film as I enthusiastically spoke of my love for Campbell's music, the respect I have for his venturing forth on is farewell tour and my own experience living with an Alzheimer's relative.
The point I wanted to get across is how I have learned to live with the person as he is now and to love and respect that person for who he is now. Personally, I have become a much stronger person, a compassionate person and have definitely prioritized my life. As Campbell sings, "I need the ones I love Lord more and more each day," I find that thought has a reciprocal effect on me.
Campbell's concert was extremely memorable for me in many ways. He did not disappoint in his performance. Yes, as the New York Times noted in its review, Campbell did use a teleprompter, yet I was amazed how he was able to read it. The most memorable part of the evening was the fact that Campbell was joined by three of his eight children, who are part of a band called Instant People.
His sons Cal and Shannon play the drums and guitar, respectively and his daughter Ashley plays the guitar, banjo and keyboard. Any parent of adult children could relate to the experience in watching these three siblings support their father as he performed the hit songs that have become the songbook of many of our own lives.
In the concert's program Campbell acknowledges his rollercoaster life of laughter, tears, successes and failures that are part of who he is now. He notes that his new studio album, "Ghost on the Canvas" is about the "now" Glen with "all the ghosts of the old Glens still kind of hanging around."
That is the message I came away with as I left the theatre and that is the message I bring with me as I face the daily challenges in my own home.
Rita Papazian is a freelance write who has covered Norwalk extensively. She can be reached at