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Glen Campbell talks about Grammys, living with Alzheimer's

Posted by on Feb. 12, 2012 at 6:58 PM
  • 2 Replies

Last June, Glen Campbell stunned fans when he revealed in a press release that he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. It was not an easy decision to go public with his private struggle, but his family felt it was a decision that needed to be made.

"The main thing we were concerned about was during shows he would forget a line or get a little confused," says Campbell's daughter, Ashley. "People would think, 'Is he drunk?' Is he doing drugs again?' So we didn't want people to get the wrong impression."

But an interesting thing happened after the Alzheimer's announcement. Instead of fading off into the sunset like a forgotten icon, the 75-year-old entertainer has been catapulted back into the spotlight -- and the music industry can't seem to shower him with enough accolades.

In November, he was the subject of a star-studded tribute at the CMA Awards show, and on Sunday night, he'll pick up a Lifetime Achievement trophy at the 54th annual Grammy Awards.

Behind the scenes, it's been somewhat of a standoff between the CMAs and the Grammys, with each telecast vying for bragging rights to have Campbell perform. But there's nothing like the pull of the Grammys -- especially when you're a five-time Grammy winner.

At the CMAs, Campbell beamed from the audience while Keith Urban, Brad Paisley and Vince Gill serenaded him with his biggest hits, but the Grammys will be a different story. Campbell himself will take center stage for "Rhinestone Cowboy," flanked by Blake Shelton, The Band Perry and his own band -- which features three of his grown children.

It'll be his first live television performance since the Alzheimer's diagnosis, and thus, it will also be a bit of a cliffhanger.

Last fall, Campbell released his final album, "Ghost on the Canvas," then hit the road on what he's calling his farewell tour.

Most of the time, he sails through his set like the charismatic veteran he is. Three teleprompters at the foot of the stage enable him to read his lyrics, and when he flubs a line here or there, he usually laughs it off. But there are rare moments when he'll become a little disoriented, and that's when it helps that he's surrounded by family on stage. Son Cal keeps things steady on drums, while his brother, Shannon, plays guitar nearby. Their younger sister, Ashley, stands protectively to Campbell's left, on keyboards, banjo and violin.

"He looks at me sometimes if he is confused, and I just smile at him. I just try to make him feel like he is surrounded by people that love him on stage," says Ashley.

While most people with Alzheimer's drift in and out of lucidity without fanfare, you know exactly when Campbell has hit a rough patch. He'll be playing a song on guitar that he's played a gazillion times, like "Wichita Lineman," then all of a sudden hit a bad chord or forget the lyrics. It's like a light switch.

In concert, fans are happy to fill in the gaps when he has a senior moment, singing his lyrics back at him until he finds his way again. Campbell's wife, Kim, watches serenely from the soundboard, knowing full-well that these incidents will occur from time to time. But the whole family has made peace with it, including Campbell.

He tells CNN, "I am content with it. Don't cry over spilt milk. Get up and be a man and do what you have got to do."

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.

by on Feb. 12, 2012 at 6:58 PM
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Replies (1-2):
jerzeetomato
by on Feb. 12, 2012 at 8:20 PM

 Wow.  It's wonderful he has such a supportive family.

jerzeetomato
by on Feb. 13, 2012 at 9:31 AM

 Saw him on the Grammys last night.  He sang beautifully, and only seemed slightly disoriented for a moment after his performance was over.

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