NASHVILLE (CBSNewYork/CBS News/AP) — Country music icon Glen Campbell has died at the age of 81.
An announcement on Campbell’s website Tuesday afternoon read: “It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved husband, father, grandfather, and legendary singer and guitarist, Glen Travis Campbell, at the age of 81, following his long and courageous battle with Alzheimer’s disease.”
Campbell, whose hits include “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Gentle on My Mind,” was considered country’s first crossover star. But he told Anthony Mason on CBS’ “Sunday Morning” that he never thought of himself as a country singer.
“No, I’m a singer, and I really like good songs,” he said.
Campbell was one of the biggest stars of the late 1960s and 1970s. He sold more than 45 million records and had 12 gold albums and 75 chart hits.
One of 12 children of an Arkansas sharecropper, Campbell first picked up a guitar at age 4.
By the early 1960s, he’d played his way to Los Angeles Though he couldn’t read music, Campbell quickly became one of the most sought-after guitarists in the city, getting a lot of session work. He told Mason that time felt “great … I bought a car!”
He went on to play guitar for Frank Sinatra on “Strangers in the Night,” for the Monkees on “I’m a Believer,” and he filled in for Brian Wilson for six months when he took a break from the Beach Boys.
Campbell crossed into acting, co-starring with John Wayne in the 1969 movie “True Grit” and had a weekly audience of some 50 million people for the “Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour” on CBS from 1969 to 1972.
“Rhinestone Cowboy,” released in 1975, was his first Number One record.
A dark period followed. He became a tabloid mainstay after an affair with fellow country singer Tanya Tucker, who called him “the horniest man I ever met.” Their affair was fueled by drugs and alcohol, and he spent the late ’70s and early ’80s drinking heavily and using cocaine. Campbell told Mason that he went “crazy” and stupid” during that time.
Over the course of his career, he released more than 70 of his own albums, and in the 1990s recorded a series of gospel CDs. A 2011 farewell album, “Ghost On the Canvas,” included contributions from Jacob Dylan, Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick and Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins.
He was married four times and had eight children.
In 1975, when he heard the demo of “Rhinestone Cowboy,” he thought it could become his signature song. He told Mason he knew right away he wanted to record it. “Oh yeah. ‘I’ve been walking these streets so long singin’ the same old song.’ That was just perfect.”
Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011, CBS News reported.
He released a final song and video in 2014 while living in a long-term care facility in Tennessee. The tune chronicles his struggles with the disease and has him saying farewell to his fans and loved ones.
In the song, Campbell sings, “I’m still here but yet I’m gone/I don’t play guitar or sing my song/It never defined who I am/The man that loved you till the end/You’re the last person I will love/You’re the last face I will recall/And best of all…I’m not gonna miss you.”
The music video is filled with personal family footage and glimpses of the Country Music Hall of Fame member throughout his career.
Campbell is survived by his wife, Kim Campbell of Nashville; as well as their three children, Cal, Shannon and Ashley; his children from previous marriages, Debby, Kelli, Travis, Kane, and Dillon; 10 grandchildren, great- and great-great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his sisters Barbara, Sandra, and Jane; and brothers John Wallace “Shorty” and Gerald.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)