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Glen Campbell: April 22, 1936 – August 8, 2017

Paying tribute to country rock legend Glen Campbell

In 1964, Capitol Records released The Astounding 12-String Guitar Of Glen Campbell, an album of slick instrumental folk featuring covers of Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ In The Wind and Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land. In the sleeve notes, disc jockey Hugh Cherry – the man who later introduced Johnny Cash on stage at his legendary Folsom Prison shows – makes a prediction: “Glen Campbell has recently gained great fame as an instrumentalist,” he says, “but it is the opinion of this writer that Glen will ultimately gain equal fame and acceptance as a vocalist of rare interpretive ability. He can provide a lyric with humour or pathos, warmth and sincerity.”

Cherry was half-right. While Campbell was indeed an enormously successful guitarist – he was a leading member of famed Los Angeles session musicians the Wrecking Crew, whose Hal Blaine and Earl Palmer also appeared on the album – his later success as a singer dwarfed his achievements as a musician.

But Cherry was spot-on in one respect, astutely describing Campbell’s “rare interpretive ability”. For Campbell could take a song – any song – and effortlessly infuse it with the kind of yearning that made people empathise with the songwriter rather than the singer. It was a strange gift, as if Campbell were able to channel someone else’s sadness directly to the listener, without ever adding any of his own emotional baggage along the way. And when coupled with the right songwriter, as he was when partnered with Jimmy Webb on classics such as Wichita Lineman, Galveston or By The Time I Get To Phoenix, they created perfection.

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