So many times, when star musicians announce they’re embarking on a “farewell tour,” their fans have good reason to be suspicious.
How often have you seen a musician try to bring out an audience for “one last tour,” which is inevitably followed a couple of years later by “The Comeback Tour”? Then, sometime after that, another farewell tour, and so on.
Sadly, the “Goodbye Tour” of the great country singer Glen Campbell likely is his final trip down the road. Campbell’s Buffalo fans will have their chance to say goodbye when he takes the stage in the University at Buffalo’s Center for the Arts at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Campbell, a superb singer and guitarist from Arkansas, has been in the public eye since the 1960s. He is 76 years old and suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Little by little, the disease is taking his memory, but instead of retreating, Campbell and his family have been open about his illness.
He announced that he had Alzheimer’s and began his final tour more than a year ago. With the aid of TelePrompters and several family members and close friends in his band, he has done quite well, according to reviews that have appeared all over the nation.
“[Campbell] looked good, moved well and took immediate control of his audience,” the entertainment paper Variety reported after a concert in late June at the famous Hollywood Bowl. “Best of all, his guitar playing sounded unimpaired; fast, funky with brilliant fills and in-the-pocket extended solos that made it clear that he’s still one of the great pop and country guitarists.”
Introduced to the public by the Smothers Brothers, Campbell teamed up with his songwriter buddy Jimmy Webb to create some of the most memorable songs of the ’60s and ’70s, including “Galveston,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress,” and perhaps one of the most beautiful hit songs of all time, “Wichita Lineman.”
For years one of the recording industry’s most in-demand sidemen, Campbell provided guitar backing for some of the biggest names in music, including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, the Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel, the Righteous Brothers, the Byrds, and the Mamas and the Papas.
He also briefly replaced Brian Wilson in the Beach Boys before he started making big hits under his own name. During the late 1970s and into the 1980s, cocaine, alcohol abuse and a stormy relationship with singer Tanya Tucker drove him close to the edge of madness. He later said becoming a born-again Christian saved his life.
Last year, Campbell recorded a powerful, poignant album, “Ghost on the Canvas,” which some music journalists picked as one of the year’s best. There have been plenty of Webb songs, other hits like “Rhinestone Cowboy” and songs from “Ghost” on the ongoing tour, which recently took Campbell to New York City’s Carnegie Hall.
In addition to showcasing some great songs, Campbell’s final tour has caught the notice of medical professionals, who give him credit for refusing to let Alzheimer’s destroy him.
“Alzheimer’s disease is something most people would rather look away from,” senior care expert Laurie Edwards-Tate wrote earlier this year in the Washington Times. “But Glen Campbell’s willingness to be open with his fans proves to them that a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease does not need to be terminal or hopeless.”