I was introduced to him as John Wayne’s costar in the original True Grit. Campbell’s music recalls some great memories about my father and I driving around Long Island. Campbell’s song “Wichita Lineman” became a staple of AM Radio.
While most honored as a country singer, Campbell’s career was more prolific as a studio session musician. He performed guitar licks with The Champs, the Beach Boys, and Frank and Nancy Sinatra. Much like musician Steve Hunter, Campbell performed the soundtrack of my generation and most of us never knew it. Now stricken with Alzheimer’s Disease, Campbell himself does not know the impact his music has had upon the world.
The documentary I’ll Be Me is Campbell’s swan song and it opens this weekend. Upon completion of his album with tour dates contracted, the Campbell family learns of their patriarch’s malady. The family decides to continue the tour as a farewell tour to the fans.
From Carnegie Hall to the Hollywood Bowl, for 151 performances in 425 days, the tour becomes a rollercoaster ride of emotions. At first, Campbell is able to hide behind his humor, with jokes and his impression of Donald Duck. When he gets confused onstage, he relies on his banjo -picking daughter Ashley to get through the musical numbers. These are sweet and humorous moments.
Yet, as the disease progresses, one witnesses the deconstruction of a celebrity. It is hard to watch the paranoia of a 76-year-old strong man. It is even harder to watch Campbell exit a tour bus with a knife in his teeth, as he tries to extract a delusional cavity.
Yet in an operetta sense, I’ll Be Me is a life-affirming movie. As Campbell’s musicianship fails, his ticket-buying fans provide an outpouring of love. Bruce Springsteen, Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley and Sheryl Crow discuss how Glen Campbell inspired their vocation.
Go see I’ll Be Me on the big screen, with a full blown sound system. It is a full concert experience. You will laugh and maybe shed a tear. However, there is no denying that you will leave the theater wanting to listen to more Glen Campbell music.