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Singer Glen Campbell dies at 81

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The beloved country singer succumbed to Alzheimer's disease

Glen Campbell died after “a long and courageous battle with Alzheimer’s disease,” his family said Tuesday in a statement. The beloved country singer was 81. 

“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.”

A flood of emotional tributes continue to pour in from across the globe to Nashville, where he had lived, worked and inspired a generation of artists.

Glen Campbell brought country music to new audiences. He found success as a session musician before embarking on a solo career that included smashes “Gentle On My Mind,” “Galveston,” “Wichita Lineman” and “Rhinestone Cowboy” and that landed him in the Country Music Hall of Fame.  He was the seventh son in a farming family, born in 1936 in Delight, Arkansas. “I spent the early parts of my life looking at the north end of a southbound mule and it didn’t take long to figure out that a guitar was a lot lighter than a plow handle,” he said in a late 1970s press bio. He released more than 70 of his own albums, and in the 1990s recorded a series of gospel CDs. Shortly after his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, he released a 2011 farewell album, “Ghost On the Canvas.”

Troubles hit Campbell in the 1970s, with a divorce, drinking, erratic behavior, and drug use, including a near fatal overdose. He changed paths upon meeting Radio City Music Hall Rockette Kim Woolen. She helped bring faith into his life. “I accepted Jesus Christ on December the 21, 1981,” he told The Tennessean. “I’m singin’ a new song.” The couple married in 1982, and his wife remained a stabilizing influence throughout the rest of his life.

In a 1984 interview with Guideposts magazine, Campbell credited God with his release from cocaine:

I had promised Kim that cocaine would not be part of our marriage. I tried and prayed, but I didn’t keep that promise. One night shortly after our first child, Cal, was born, some musician friends were in town, and I stayed up till dawn doing cocaine with them.

When I got home Kim was heartbroken and furious, and I was afraid she was going to take Cal and leave. I can’t say I would have blamed her but I think it would have torn my heart out.

As I had done so many times before, I begged the Lord to deliver me. I don’t understand why, but that day it was as if Jesus reached down and pulled my hand back from the cocaine. I never touched the drug again …

When God lifted my obsession for alcohol it was as if he raised the curtain on a whole new life. He changed me in ways I never could have changed myself, and that is the key. Kim and I have a real marriage now, an honest marriage.

Today I truly have a peace “which passeth all understanding.” I really don’t understand it. But I thank the Lord all the time. I am a man richly blessed, despite myself. For all that God has given me, there is nothing for which I am more thankful than Kim. I recently recorded a song called “The Boy in Me.” The chorus starts, “Oh, Jesus, bring back the boy in me.” The song reminds me of sweet times back in Arkansas, when life was hard but simple.

I was never happier than when I was with my daddy. Daddy’s been dead a while now, but I feel as if I’ve found a Father again. He is in heaven and I am his boy.

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