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7.26.2012

THE LONG SAD GOODBYE


At some point in most people's working world they retire.  It is an inevitable part of aging.  Many times retirement does not mean the end of work, but the alteration of the necessity to have to. In the animal world, when an animal reaches its finale of usability, they are put out to pasture.  I for one am glad that reference isn't used as readily in describing the close or culmination of one's working career.

I have referenced before in other blog posts my absolute love of Glen Campbell.  Some of you readers don't even really fully know who Glen Campbell is.  You are just too young.  So whether you like, know or value him or not, he has a rich musical background.  Maybe you saw him perform on the Grammy's this year.  Possibly for those that were clueless to who he was or the magnitude of musical history before you center stage, you opted for a raid-the-refrigerator moment or changed the channel. 

Glen is now 76 years old.  That's not an ancient or ready to be put out to pasture age at all.  We went to his Goodbye Tour concert last evening.  Knowing that it had been made public that he has Alzheimer's and that this would be his last hooray, his last tour, I didn't want to miss this musical icon as his place in history slowly faded away. 

Glen was a much sought after studio musician in the early 1960's and was part of an elite group of studio musicians that became known as "the Wrecking Crew". During that period he played on recordings by Bobby Darin, Rick Nelson, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, The Monkees, Nancy Sinatra, Merle Haggard, Jan and Dean, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Phil Spector.  He played studio backgrounds on albums for the Beach Boys and toured with them filling in for Brian Wilson.  Instrumentally he was an amazing guitarist and banjoist.  

From 1969 - 1972 he hosted The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour which highlighted musicians in a variety hour platform.  He went on to star with John Wayne in the movie, "True Grit" as well as other acting gigs.  The song, "Like A Rhinestone Cowboy" was his largest selling single.  While "Southern Nights" made him a cross-over hit.  He won four Grammy's for the songs, "Gentle On My Mind" and "By The Time I Get To Phoenix".  He was a very talented musician with a long career.

Sitting in the venue last night realizing it was the end of an era was a bit sentimental for me.  As Glen walked onto the stage the entire stadium stood in a standing ovation honoring a 50 year musical veteran.  He opened the show with "Gentle On My Mind".  As he played and sang it became blaring apparent that his Alzheimer's was far more advanced than anyone in the audience thought.  His band and 3 kids who played with them tried to cover, but you could clearly see his confusion.  He forgot lyrics at times even though they were being displayed on a monitor on the stage floor for him.  He started wrong songs, faced his band as much as he did the audience, said the same thing between every song, played some wrong stretches on the guitar.  The fade out of the disease was already taking its toll.

I fought back tears for Glen and his family understanding Alzheimer's as it ravaged both my grandmother and great-grandfather.  But my thoughts went farther than Glen.  All we do in life comes to an end eventually no matter the awards, the success, the talent, it fades away.  We move from a wide-circled life to a small-circled world.  One day part of who defined us is gone.  It happens to every person on earth if we die in a chronological normal aging order way.  I felt the brevity of life sitting there.  I felt great sadness, melancholy, and compassion.  It seemed that I was witnessing an almost private family moment on stage as Glen's wide-circled life was becoming smaller and smaller. 

There was a sort of reverence and hush in the audience as he played and sang.  It was partly like watching someone fall down over and over again trying to get to the finish line of a race.  I missed his powerful voice and impeccable musical instrumentation.  There was a collective audience grace for his performance and lack and a gratitude that we all got to see him one last time.  We both said our goodbyes really.

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