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Glen Campbell, the voice behind 21 Top 40 hits including “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Wichita Lineman” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” died today at age 81. During a career that spanned six decades, Campbell sold over 45 million records. In 1968, one of his biggest years, he outsold the Beatles.
“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,” the singer’s family said in a statement.
Born April 22, 1936 in Billstown, Arkansas, Campbell was the seventh son of 12 children. He started playing guitar as a youth and moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1954 to join his uncle’s band, Dick Bills and the Sandia Mountain Boys. He also appeared there on his uncle’s radio show and on “K Circle B Time,” the local children’s program on KOB Television. In 1958, Campbell formed his own band, the Western Wranglers.
In 1960, Campbell moved to Los Angeles and joined band The Champs. Campbell had found a daytime job at publishing company American Music, writing songs and recording demos, and ultimately playing on recordings by Bobby Darin, Ricky Nelson, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, The Monkees, Nancy Sinatra, Merle Haggard, Jan and Dean, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and Phil Spector.
In 1962, Campbell signed with Capital Record and, beginning in 1964, he began to appear on television as a regular on “Star Route,” a syndicated series, ABC’s “Shindig” and “Hollywood Jamboree.”
In the summer of 1968, Campbell guest hosted the “Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” on CBS. The successful appearance led to his own variety show, “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour,” which he hosted from 1969 until 1972. He also appeared opposite John Wayne in “True Grit” in 1969.
In addition to his five Grammys and large collection of CMA and ACM awards, Campbell was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005 and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. Campbell was married four times, and has five sons and three daughters.