Glen Campbell has battled Alzheimer's disease since 2011, and now, that condition that robs miles of meaning and memory by inches has taken another most-cherished joy-- the ability to play guitar. Glen Campbell achieved acclaimed status as a guitarist long before his wide smile, fresh face, and abundantly sprayed hair became part of “appointment TV” in “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.” Glen Campbell’s masterful talents on guitar spanned from his Delight, Arkansas roots, to rock 'n roll, and onto classics that crossed over on every chart. “By The Time I Get To Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” and “Rhinestone Cowboy” remain forever in hearts and music collections, but have faded from the memory of the man who made them unforgettable.

From the Wrecking Crew to farewell tour

Glen Campbell’s intrinsic gift for improvisation and memory made him invaluable as part of the Wrecking Crew. The collection of talents, including drummer, Hal Blaine, bassist, Carol Kaye, and piano man, Leon Russell, among many noted others, more or less served as Phil Spector’s “house band” for the "Wall of Sound” songs through the 60s and 70s. The band took the name from the assertion that their playing was so good that it would wreck the lives of other studio musicians, along with some of the headlining talents they were backing. Campbell was the hand-picked touring guitarist for the Beach Boys.

After a considerable spell away from the charts, the gifted string man had huge hits with “Southern Nights” and “Rhinestone Cowboy.” Those songs were huge crowd pleasers when Glen Campbell embarked on a farewell tour in 2014, surrounded by his family support system, including daughter Ashley, an established artist herself.

While Glen’s love for the music and his fans never waned, the tour dates had to be shortened due to diminishing memory and function. Wife, Kim, visits her husband almost daily, and concedes that “air guitar” is the only way her husband can even try to experience music now. He tries to sing, but Kim says the words come out as “gibberish.” The loss of verses and beautiful music must seem like the worst form of imprisonment by Alzheimer's for the artist whose melodies are so memorable to millions.

Destination to a happy place

From the outset of his diagnosis, Glen Campbell was poignantly honest with fans about his life. His last full studio album, “Ghosts on the Canvas” was a beautiful parting of sorts to fans, as Campbell faced the early stages of his disease. The Campbell family continued that journey with a tender and truthful documentary of their lives, “I’ll Be Me,” showing Glen embracing many joys of living even while being in combat with his illness.

As he faces these end stages at 80, may his soul grant him respite from his fight to a place of music that only he hears. Kim hopes that the openness of their journey proves to millions of other brave families impacted by Alzheimer's that “there’s hope out there, there’s help out there.” Isolation can be the most defeating enemy, and she stresses that families and caregivers “can't do it alone-- it will take you down.” Like Glen Campbell's songs, his family's example is a lift down a long, painful road.