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A Better Place
September 28, 2012 8:10 PM   Subscribe

Glen Campbell started his career in 1954, and his solo career in 1961. In 1965 he hit #45 with a version of "Universal Soldier" (and, ironically, also stated that "People advocating burning draft cards should be hung.")

1967's "Gentle On My Mind" was followed by "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" later in 1967, and "Wichita Lineman".

His career continued nearly unabated with a string of hits, a TV show, and continued popularity, but, early in 2011, Glenn was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, he talked about it some in an appearance on Ellen.

Since then, he's continued with a "final tour", released an album "Ghost on the Canvas" which includes the beautiful "A Better Place" (which is the whole point of this FPP).
posted by HuronBob (49 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Wichita Lineman" was a rare achievement.
posted by Brian B. at 8:26 PM on September 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm a sucker for this conceit. Reminds me of Woody Guthrie's Biggest Thing That Man Has Ever Done.
posted by phrontist at 8:28 PM on September 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I thought this was an obit at first.
posted by Windigo at 8:40 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a perfect opportunity to introduce Dennis Brown's cover of witchitah lineman to those of you unfamiliar with it.
posted by askmehow at 8:46 PM on September 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


...I would just like to note my grandmother always used to say she wouldn't kick Glen Campbell out of her bed for eating crackers.
posted by Windigo at 8:48 PM on September 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


CBS Sunday Morning did a great segment on him early this year.
posted by worldswalker at 8:52 PM on September 28, 2012


My dad advocated burning draft cards. If I'm anything to go by, he was pretty well hung.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:55 PM on September 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Glen's drunk driving mugshot tacked on a bike courier notice board: "Getting cards and letters from people you don't even know".

(Actually, I love Glen's work. I can tease him now because he's not dead yet, right?)

Wreckin' Crew reprazent!
posted by ovvl at 9:34 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pop radio hits don't come any more thoughtful, subtle, refined or touching than "Witchita Lineman". It's long been a favorite of mine.

It should be noted that Chuck D of Public Enemy gave "By the Time I Get To Phoenix" a kind of nod from another musical universe when he wrote "By the Time I Get To Arizona".
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:55 PM on September 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I suffered much opprobrium over the years from family and friends for for being a fan of his music. Snobs.
posted by vac2003 at 10:05 PM on September 28, 2012


Glen Campbell was Brian Wilson's stand-in in the Beach Boys in the mid-60s, and he plays guitar on Pet Sounds.

Plus, my parents own a copy of his christmas album which I grew up with.

I have a lot of respect for him. I heard about his farewell tour, and thought it was pretty classy of him to receive his diagnosis and decide to take a final bow before heading into the long goodbye.

I wish him nothing but the best. He's a musical legend who most people don't appreciate. Maybe someday they will.
posted by hippybear at 10:55 PM on September 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I hate to do this (I do not hate to do this) but here's REMs "Wichita Lineman"
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:09 AM on September 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hippy, I feel the same way about Lee Hazlewood.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:12 AM on September 29, 2012


He's a musical legend who most people don't appreciate.

He also made about a gazillion non-musical guest appearances on TV.
posted by three blind mice at 1:03 AM on September 29, 2012


I think he meant to say, 'People advocating burning draft cards should be hanged'. People are hanged and objects, (including meat), are hung.

Sorry, couldn't help myself.
posted by kingzog at 1:35 AM on September 29, 2012


ironically, also stated that "People advocating burning draft cards should be hung."

"Sadly, my flat feet prevent me from doing my duty, but I'll also be serving the USA by bringing you my MOR country stylings. They also serve, who stand before an audience and strum -- amirite?"
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:37 AM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


One of the finest guitarists of his generation.
posted by spitbull at 2:57 AM on September 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Why not, here's Nick Cave's By The Time I Get To Phoenix.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:05 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've always felt like Nick Cave's is pretty bloodless, but then I guess it's Nick Cave after all.

Glen Campbell's rendition still stands as the definitive version of the great song which is "By The Time I Get To Phoenix." However, anyone who cares about the song ought to hear the great soul cover it inspired: the version by Isaac Hayes – all nineteen glorious minutes. The man breaks the song down and preaches, and somehow his filling-in of the narrative serves the song very well (in my opinion.)

("By The Time I Get To Phoenix" was written, incidentally, by the incomparable Jimmy Webb, who also wrote "Wichita Lineman," and whose only real sin was bringing "MacArthur Park" into the world.)
posted by koeselitz at 4:26 AM on September 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


"By The Time I Get To Phoenix" was written, incidentally, by the incomparable Jimmy Webb

You read my mid, koeselitz. To continue the chain, here's Webb performing his "The Highwayman" with Mark Knopfler. What an interesting songsmith.

And thanks, HuronBob. I'm a latecomer to Campbell's "Witchita Lineman," but am still struck by it. Years ago, my mother ran into Campbell at an airport and chatted with him for a bit. She said that he was a real gentleman and a class act.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:57 AM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Glen also did another song by Webb that could be thought of as anti-war, the incredible "Galveston." Get's you halfway through the second verse before you realize the narrarator isn't just dreaming of his time and girl in Galveston, he's at the front. Brillianty jarring.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:00 AM on September 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am so looking forward to seeing Glen Campbell in Ithaca next month.
posted by maurice at 8:28 AM on September 29, 2012


What an interesting songsmith.

Yeah, Jimmy Webb is pretty outstanding. He's been writing great songs for a long time, and he seems to come to popular awareness in waves. His style isn't really part of popular music right now, but I always feel that at any moment someone could record something by him which catches hold of the popular taste and he'll one again be en vogue.

There could quite easily be a mammoth FPP made about Webb. I'll put him on my list and get around to it someday if someone else doesn't beat me to it.
posted by hippybear at 8:53 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Galveston. A great song.
posted by bubukaba at 9:09 AM on September 29, 2012


It took me 40 years to appreciate why my dad loved Glen Campbell so much. That says more about my thick head than it does about Glen Campbell's talent.
posted by blucevalo at 9:11 AM on September 29, 2012


Jimmy Webb did a really solid version of Galveston on his own album 'Letters'.

Wikipedia:
Webb and Campbell had first met during the production of a General Motors commercial. Webb arrived at the recording session with his Beatle-length hair and approached the conservative singer, who looked up from his guitar and said, "Get a haircut."

(Actually, Webb was really a big fan of Glen's singing).
posted by ovvl at 9:26 AM on September 29, 2012


Wait a minute. Wait, wait... wait a minute. OK, all these years I had simply assumed that Witchita Lineman was penned by Glen Campbell. But... no. That one was by Jimmy Webb as well.

So, the upshot of that is... hey, Glen sang it real nice and all, but, um... Campbell is not the man I thought he was. Jimmy Webb is the man I thought Glen Campbell was.

Damn.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:36 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


the incomparable Jimmy Webb, who also wrote "Wichita Lineman," and whose only real sin was bringing "MacArthur Park" into the world.)

Hey, someone had to leave the cake out in the rain.
posted by philip-random at 10:15 AM on September 29, 2012


Thanks philip-random for that video. I never knew Campbell actually sang MacArthur Park himself. And a FAR superior vocal version than the original Richard Harris one.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 10:27 AM on September 29, 2012


Jimmy Webb is the man I thought Glen Campbell was.

Yes, no, Jimmy Webb was inspired by Glen Campbell. I think he wrote some of those famous songs with him in mind. Gotta admit Glen's an effective interpreter. To make you think that he wrote what he sings is really something.
posted by ovvl at 10:29 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Campbell is not the man I thought he was.

Before I knew much about him, I saw Glenn Campbell on a live TV show. When his guitar went out of tune he handed it to a tech and waited for him to hand it back. It seemed to me akin to the time Dick Clark couldn't identify the song Let It Be in a live broadcast. I snickered at Campbell then, but later came to know how accomplished and respected he really is.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:57 AM on September 29, 2012


Glen Campbell, a wonderful singer, master of the guitar.

...oh crap, not the Knopfler link....well, there goes the rest of the morning...
posted by mule98J at 11:02 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


No love for "Rhinestone Cowboy"? I loved that song when I was a kid, and got a different perspective on it after I watched Midnight Cowboy (itself the source of a couple of classic songs).
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:41 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


John Hartford's "Gentle on My Mind" is a beautiful tune and Glenn's rendition was pretty damn good.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:47 AM on September 29, 2012


Glenn's rendition

One "n" please. He's Campbell, not Close.
posted by hippybear at 12:25 PM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Or Danzig!
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:20 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or John.
posted by koeselitz at 2:57 PM on September 29, 2012


Phew. My heart did stop when I thought this was an obituary for a second.. There's never a bad time to celebrate Glen Campbell!
posted by Mael Oui at 6:22 PM on September 29, 2012


HuronBob, I have now been humming Campbell's version of "Witchita Lineman" all. damn. day.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:03 PM on September 29, 2012


...I have now been humming Campbell's version of "Witchita Lineman" all. damn. day.

It has a pretty good Wikipedia entry.
posted by Brian B. at 7:20 PM on September 29, 2012


koeselitz, thanks for the Isaac Hayes version, that's fascinating....and very good. I had never heard that.
posted by HuronBob at 8:17 PM on September 29, 2012


You're welcome, HuronBob. I particularly like the way he refers to Jimmy Webb emphatically as "one of the great young songwriters of today," and then admits that "I don't know what he was thinking about... but it's a deep tune." Those of us who grew up before the splintering of music in the late 1990s and before the internet changed anything might catch the interesting flavor to that; back then, music was distinct, and places were far away from each other, and it was kinda weird for a soul singer to talk with great respect about a dude who wrote songs for Glen Campbell and such. And yet somehow it made sense just because there was still then a sense that the popular song was something that belonged to all of us. That's not really how people see pop music now; at this point, music is a private thing, and you can put whatever you want on your playlist without asking my permission. Back then, for better or for worse, we all shared the same playlist.
posted by koeselitz at 8:35 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Surprised no one linked to the beautiful version of Wichita Lineman by Glen with the Stone Temple Pilots
posted by stargell at 8:47 PM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


...back then, music was distinct, and places were far away from each other, and it was kinda weird for a soul singer to talk with great respect about a dude who wrote songs for Glen Campbell and such.

Actually, no, not weird at all. As a matter of fact, it was actually much more common then than it is today. The artists now referred to as "R&B" or "urban" or whatever, and the artists referred to as "country" or, what, "soft rock" or whatever seem far less likely to go cross-genre, or to perform songs from one 'camp' or another. That would be my impression, anyway. I mean, yeah, you've got Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson getting stoned together and making a record here and there, but isn't that pretty much the exception?

But go back a few decades and you had Al Green covering Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and country staple "Ain't It Funny How Time Slips Away", among others. You had Ray Charles' genre-defying Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. Otis Redding, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Solomon Burke and SCORES of other R&B and soul singers covered songs from country and other "white" genres, and had high praise for said writers and songs.

There was lots more of that going on back when "things were far away from each other". I'd actually argue that they're further away now than they were then.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:11 PM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, you've got that duets album by Tony Bennett... The Lady is a Tramp with Gaga is fantastic. That whole album is a great example of Bennett collaborating with contemporary artists and drawing them into his genre.
posted by HuronBob at 9:23 PM on September 29, 2012


You're really correct, flapjax, and I have to say what I said wasn't really true; I'm trying to catch the feeling of another time, but even just looking at that same Isaac Hayes album, he covered a Burt Bacharach tune – "Walk On By," which is probably my favorite Isaac Hayes recording to be honest.

The cross-pollination in the time was huge. I guess – well, I am totally out of my element here, since I only started to get into soul music seriously about a year and a half ago. However, in this era of soul, the post-Curtis! era, when soul singers were finally starting to produce their own recordings and own their own record companies and put everything together without outside control from the industry – well, I just get this strong feeling of solidarity, and of wanting to make something new and unique and (well) characteristically black. So – again, I may be reading into this, and it seems like I'm not incredibly knowledgeable about it, but I sense this sort of equanimity when Isaac Hayes speaks eloquently and praises Jimmy Webb's songwriting. Like, this is a cool thing – two guys from different camps, but Isaac can see his music for what it is and appreciate it.

It is true, however, that music now has splintered – and what's interesting is that there are so many musics now based solely on eschewing all influence, like it's a terrible thing to pick up stuff from the past or from other genres. Which is why this era we're talking about – the era of American song, really, from country to blues to jazz and everything in between – is so much more interrelated than what we're familiar with now.
posted by koeselitz at 10:00 PM on September 29, 2012


Well, you've got that duets album by Tony Bennett... a great example of Bennett collaborating with contemporary artists and drawing them into his genre.

Which is of course wonderful, but a little different point than what was being discussed, I think. With projects like Bennett's Duets you've got, as the main point, I think, the *product*, which is "Tony sings with modern stars like ________ and _______!" That they are all more "contemporary" (read: younger) artists joining Bennett in older songs associated with his heyday is what the package, the whole commercial endeavor, is all about. Apart from the business aspect, though, and to be a bit more charitable and uncynical about the various artist's motivations, it's also about a certain show of respect toward a particular artist and the music of his time.

It's not really the same as Al Green up and recording a Hank Williams tune, though. Al (and so many other artists like him, at the time) wasn't part of some sort of collaborative project designed to be perceived as an homage to some other artist, or releasing product with said artist, or anything like that. It was just about the fact that he (and his producer, probably) just really liked Hank Williams' fabulous song, and were not shy about recording it because of any perceived genre incompatibility or something.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:05 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Flapjax... point taken... it is a different concept/process.
posted by HuronBob at 10:30 PM on September 29, 2012


Just wanted to make a quick plug for the fantastic title track from Glen's latest album -- Ghost on a Canvas (YouTube link). Written by Paul Westerberg, it is one of Paul's best songs over in my opinion. (Terrific video as well. Westerberg makes a cameo)
posted by Ike_Arumba at 7:28 AM on September 30, 2012


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