Country Music Legend Glen Campbell Dies at 81

Singer-guitarist and actor Glen Campbell, who was known for hits including “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Wichita Lineman” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” died today after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

From his humble rural beginnings to his meteoric rise to fame to the long battle with Alzheimer’s that today resulted in his death in Nashville, Tennessee, the details of Glen Campbell’s life at times read like the lyrics to one of his melancholy country ballads. But with more than 70 albums to his name, some 50 million records sold and a dazzling 73 Top 40 hits in his decades-long career, Campbell’s achievements transcend the trail of heartache and loss that winds through it, ultimately telling a tale of redemption, and of one of the brightest musical lights of the era.

Born on April 22, 1936, in the tiny rural settlement in Arkansas, Glen Campbell was the seventh of 12 children born to sharecropper parents. He spent his early youth working with his father on the family farm, but after buying his first guitar from a Sears Roebuck catalog for a few dollars, young Glen quickly displayed a talent that was destined to one day take him far from home. He dropped out of school at the age of 14 and began performing professionally with one of his uncles’ in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There, he became involved with a girl named Diane Kirk, whom he married in 1956 after she became pregnant. Two years after the birth of their daughter, Debby, the couple divorced, but Campbell continued to perform in clubs around the southwest and further develop his already impressive skills.

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