On Sunday Night, Glen Campbell performed at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards where he also received a Lifetime Achievement award. Unsure if I knew and forgot or never knew at all, but it was brought to my attention that Campbell revealed last June that he has Alzheimer’s disease. To see him performing was encouraging. Not encouraging in the way you know someone will recover from an illness because Alzheimer’s is a disease for which there is no cure at the moment, but encouraging to see someone with the illness giving it a good fight until he can fight no longer.
CNN recently sat down with Glen and his wife Kim to talk Grammy’s and Alzheimer’s:
CNN recently sat down with Glen and Kim at their home in Malibu, in a room overlooking the California coast. Several guitars were on display within arm’s reach. Others laid in cases in the entryway, ready to head out on the road. In another room, platinum and gold records lined the walls, documenting the success of “Wichita Lineman,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Rhinestone Cowboy.”
Clearly, music has been good to Glen Campbell, and Glen Campbell has been good for music. Now, music is helping him cope with life.
CNN: How does it feel to be receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys?
Glen Campbell: I am flattered. I really am. All I wanted to do ever since I could remember was play my guitar and sing.
CNN: You came out to Los Angeles in 1958 to be a guitarist. Did you ever see yourself becoming a big star?
Campbell: I never really thought of it! I’m a musician first. So when I got the job playing guitar with the session players, I said, “Yay, I can play.” I was a little scared. I was a little nervous, but when I got in with The Wrecking Crew, I realized that I could cut it out here, and could do it. I played with the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Elvis, the Righteous Brothers, the Monkees.
CNN: You’re known as a great guitar player, but did you ever take a formal lesson?
Campbell: No. I can read a chord chart, but I couldn’t read a note chart.
CNN: Are you nervous about taking the stage these days?
Campbell: I realize you are going to make mistakes through life. Just don’t make any bad ones, you know. Like all of my records are perfect records, but I did make mistakes on them. I would rather do live than any kind of lip-synching or something like that. I don’t like to lip-synch.
CNN: What has been the reaction from fans?
Kim Campbell: Boy, were we pleasantly surprised. They have been more than understanding. They have really just been rooting him on. It is really encouraging.
Glen: I don’t see myself any different, though. I’m forgetful.
Kim: I actually think he is better than he was a year ago. I think that being out and performing all the time has something to do with it. Music seems to be really good therapy for him. I don’t know if it is the vibrations. Maybe they stimulate the brain. Of course he is on some medications today that I think have been helping, too. So we are blessed to be living in a time when there are some treatments. There is no cure, but there are things that can help, and they are helping.
Glen: What did they diagnose me as?
Glen: Alzheimer’s. What is Alzheimer’s?
Kim: You start losing your memory and your ability to reason.
Glen: I just take it as it comes, you know. I know that I have a problem with that, but it doesn’t bother me. If you’re going to have it handed to you, you have got to take it, anyway. So that is the way I look at it.
CNN: You went down to Nashville for the CMA Awards in November. Seemed like you knew a lot of people there.
Glen: What is his name — the one who married that long-legged girl?
Kim: Keith Urban.
Glen: Yeah, Keith Urban. He is probably the best guitar player in Nashville.
Kim: And Brad Paisley. They are two of his favorites.
Glen: Just incredible players.
CNN: The two of you have been married nearly 30 years. Did you really meet on a blind date?
Kim: I was dancing with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall.
Glen: They had a bunch lined up and I thought, “I’ll take that one there.” No, I’m kidding.
CNN: Was it love at first sight? Kim, at that time, he was kind of a hell-raiser.
Kim: I really didn’t know anything about that, because I was a dancer, and I just had my head into Broadway and I didn’t read the tabloids. But I knew he was a singer. And then I went to one of his concerts — “Oh my goodness, I remember that song. I remember that song.” He had a lot of hits. So then I got a little more intimidated, but I really just didn’t know much about him.
CNN: Glen, did Kim change your life?
Glen: Yes, she did change my life in many ways. Before I met her, I didn’t know where I was at, or where I was going. And after I met her, I knew where I was going, and I knew where to wanted to go. Do everything according to God, and be nice, and treat other people the way you would like to be treated. We both go on that bit of advice there.
CNN: You’ve had your ups and downs.
Glen: I was forgiven for being a dummy, literally. I have been through so many changes. The first part of my career, everything was not in place.
CNN: Do you pray every morning?
Glen: Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.
CNN: What do you ask for?
Glen: Mainly thanks. Thank you, Lord, for letting me get up this morning. Let me have a good day. And if you don’t, I will come up there and get you! And he laughs at that.
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