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Arts and Entertainment

Singer Glen Campbell Dies At 81 Following Battle With Alzheimer's

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Glen Campbell, the singer-guitarist who's known for hits such as "Rhinestone Cowboy" and "Gentle on My Mind", has died at the age of 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, at the age of 81, following his long and courageous battle with Alzheimer's disease," Campbell's family said in a statement.

As noted at Rolling Stone, Campbell was born in 1936 in Billstown, Arkansas, and it was in his youth that he started playing guitar and became obsessed with jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. He would play gigs at rural bars, and later made the move to Los Angeles in his 20s. By 1963, he'd lent his guitar work to 586 tracks, and had featured in notable works such as the Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man" and Elvis Presley's "Viva Las Vegas.” In the mid-1960s he also had a brief stint touring with the Beach Boys after Brian Wilson left the band following a mental breakdown. According to allmusic.com, Campbell was offered a permanent spot in the band, but he'd turned it down over a disagreement concerning royalties.

He eventually took to center stage himself, and would find his breakthrough in the 1967 recording of the John Hartford tune “Gentle on My Mind," according to the L.A. Times. The track reached number one on the Billboard Top 40, and later earned him a Grammy. Other future hits would include "Rhinestone Cowboy," "Southern Nights," "Wichita Lineman," and "Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in L.A.)".

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“He had that beautiful tenor with a crystal-clear guitar sound, playing lines that were so inventive,” Tom Petty once told Rolling Stone magazine, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “It moved me.”

Campbell's easy-going nature made him suited him for television, too. He started with a co-hosting stint on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1968, and later got his own program the next year with The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, which ran until 1972. Campbell also made appearances on the big screen, most notably starring alongside John Wayne in the 1969 version of True Grit.

Campbell would be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005. Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me, a documentary that followed the singer as he embarked on a farewell tour amid his struggles with Alzheimer's, was released in 2014.

Campbell's daughter and others took to social media to pay tribute to the singer:

Here's Campbell performing "Gentle on My Mind":