Glen Campbell, Jimmy Webb and an American Trilogy

Like many others, I was saddened to hear last night’s news of the death of Glen Campbell. It was not one of those shock deaths we had got so used to hearing about last year as most of us who were fans knew he had been suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease for some time, but it still marked the end of an era. Here is the post I wrote last year when I was still relatively new to blogging and still called my appreciation of the music of Glen Campbell a “guilty pleasure”. I have since discovered that he was one of the most respected and accomplished artists of the 20th century, and the Jimmy Webb songs he recorded in the late 1960s are some of the finest pieces of popular music ever produced. RIP Glen – Despite your sad demise we will continue to hear you “singin’ in the wire” for a long time to come, for which I am very, very grateful.

What's It All About?

I hope I haven’t caused confusion – Yes Elvis Presley recorded the song An American Trilogy in 1972 and it became a bit of a showstopper for him when performed during the massive event that was “Elvis—Aloha from Hawaii” broadcast in 1973. Three 19th century folk songs had been melded together and given the full jumpsuited-Elvis treatment and even today, I can’t think of anyone better suited (no pun intended) for the song. His poverty-stricken southern roots, his close affinity with black music and his subsequent elevation to all-American global superstar.

But no, the songs I want to visit today are the three Jimmy Webb compositions recorded by Glen Campbell in the late ’60s. In the UK at that time London was “Swinging” and we were listening to Sandie Shaw, Cliff Richard and Lulu but in the USA, the average “Easy-Listening” aficionado would have been enjoying Glen Campbell. He was now in…

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Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was recorded for the film of the same name and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might finally work out the answer to his question, "What's it all about?"

15 thoughts on “Glen Campbell, Jimmy Webb and an American Trilogy”

    1. What a lovely thing to say and so true. Since starting my blog and reading what people such as yourself have written about him, I have discovered a whole new appreciation for the man and his music. Love that you think Wichita Lineman is the greatest pop song ever written – It seems that many agree.

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    1. Thanks Rich – A lazy bit of blogging this but felt I had to say something and knew I had so enjoyed writing the original post about Glen last year.

      Yes, I think that was the turning point, when I realised that the whole “guilty pleasure” thing was a load of baloney – The songs featured in the original post are some of the finest ever to have been recorded and ironically, because of Glen’s sad demise, they will now be played constantly for a few days which will hopefully open them up to a whole new generation of ears!

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      1. I was thinking the same thing about the exposure those songs will now enjoy. Sometimes it takes the loss of a musical great to open up their music to people who either never heard it or previously dismissed it. And considering how much suffering Mr. Campbell & his family must have gone through since his diagnosis, this is one of those losses where you can really say, “he’s in a better place.”

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  1. Another fitting tribute – so many lovely things being said about his music today.. Good to read your early post too, and the perfect song choices. Wichita Lineman is fabulous and for me it just transcends everything – even when I was younger and was ‘loyal’ to whatever genre I felt most affiliated to, this song just sounded good, never sounded ‘old’ or ‘old-fashioned’, even to my youthful and often far more narrow-minded ears! And it has continued to sound good through all the years and decades that have followed – a rare thing.
    I’m glad he had already said his ‘goodbyes’ – nothing new was expected of him, he had accepted things and allowed his audience to as well and to celebrate his talent while he was still alive Somehow feels like a calmer, more gentle departure than that of many others this last year or so.

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    1. You are right – Unlike last year with all those shock departures, we saw this one coming, but a very sad day all the same. You are also right about how Wichita Lineman somehow transcended being pigeon-holed to a genre, as it was just such a great song – It has been mentioned often during my time on the blogosphere (especially over at Rol’s place) and that has made me appreciate it all the more in this year before Glen left us. I must admit to seeking out the earphones at work today in order to have a listen on repeat – Heck I’m leaving anyway so what can they do!

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  2. I was never a fan of the song, “Rhinestone Cowboy”, but Glenn Campbell singing “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Wichita Lineman” (my all time 2nd favourite song) are just too wonderful for words – and he did the best cover of John Hartford’s “Gentle On My Mind”. His duet on “All I Have to Do Is Dream” (with Bobbie Gentry) is almost as good as the Everlys original. And, he was one of the greatest ever session musicians. All in all, a music legend.

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    1. No, Rhinestone Cowboy not in the same league at all as those wonderful Jimmy Webb songs but it did suit Glen at that stage in his career. A music legend indeed and it was not until I started blogging last year, when I delved into his back story a bit more, that I even found out about his earlier career with The Wrecking Crew. There is some really good footage of him on YouTube when during interviews he could turn his hand to playing any old stringed instrument if challenged – a music legend as you say.

      Bobbie Gentry is due to make an appearance in my American States in Song series (although at this rate it might be quite a while down the line!).

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