Music Legend Glen Campbell's Wife Kim Helps Him Say Goodbye

When music legend Glen Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, his wife Kim made sure his life was celebrated with a farewell tour and resulting documentary film.
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When music legend Glen Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, his wife Kim made sure his life was celebrated with a farewell tour and resulting documentary film.
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In 2011, the world was shocked when Glen announced that he had Alzheimers.  He embarked on a goodbye world tour which started out as a 5-week engagement but turned into an emotional 151-show nationwide. Three of his children joined him on stage.  Audiences supported and lauded him as he said farewell to his fans. His son Shannon felt that doing the tour was somewhat a celebration of their dad’s life.  Every night, Kim did Glen’s makeup and got him dressed.  “People were encouraging and loving.  They all knew he had Alzheimer’s…that was the biggest blessing that we were doing the right thing,” says Kim. The shows were not without challenges.  Throughout this ordeal, Glen has maintained his sense of humor about forgetting things, even talking in his Daffy Duck voice. On the tour, Glen needed to read the prompter because he couldn’t remember the words to the songs yet he still managed to make the audience laugh. Every second was a challenge for him on the road. Kim says that Glen has increasingly grown disoriented about the little things, like where is the bathroom, even in his own home.  “It’s not a fun illness,” says Kim. Towards the end of the tour, the frequency of bad shows increased.  “We wanted to end on a high note,” she says.  “That night in Napa was really, really hard and we knew this was his last show.”

“I definitely think there were parts of Glen’s life that he would like to forget,” says Kim.  “I think that’s why he had an alcohol problem when I first met him.  I think he was drinking to forget the pain of divorces and maybe the guilt of the children that were involved in those divorces. He felt really bad that he wasn’t there to be a father for them.”  Glen had been married 3 times before he married Kim.  Glen and Kim met on a blind date in 1981.  “On our first date he took me to a restaurant at the Waldorf and before we ate, he bowed his head and said a prayer and I thought, ‘Oh good, he believes in God.  Of course, as the night went on, I also found out he had an alcohol problem.  But he has always been such a great person; so generous, so sweet and loving and kind.” They have been married 33 years.

MEMORIES

In April 2014, the family placed Glen in a memory care community in Nashville.  Kim visits Glen every day.  Every morning when she wakes up and as she goes to sleep, she is sad.  “In between that time, you have a choice to make,” Kim says.  “I choose to walk in faith.”  Glen was raised in the Church of Christ and Kim was Baptist. “One of my biggest concerns as we face mortality is that we want to draw closer to God,” says Kim.  Since Glen doesn’t understand much of what Kim says, she wants him to have the comfort of the Lord.  “Sometimes he walks over to the window and lifts his arms saying, ‘Thank you heavenly Father.’”  Lately Glen has moments of lucidity but floats in and out of a fog.  “In the midst of those moments, he says, ‘We are so blessed.’”  He still knows who Kim is but he can’t always remember her name.  One thing that blesses Kim is Glen’s interactions with the other community residents.  “He has always loved children and the elderly,” says Kim.  “He is such a loving, giving man even in the fog of Alzheimers.” Since he found out about his disease, Glen wanted to raise awareness so that people would contribute to research to find a cure.  The days are getting increasingly more difficult and Kim says it’s her faith that gets her through each day.  “I remember Job and all of his trials.  This is the day that the Lord has made,” she says.  “I ask myself, ‘How can I be a blessing today?’”

The film, I’ll Be Me, features stars and well-known figures such as Bruce Springsteen, Bill Clinton, Jay Leno, Paul McCartney, Vince Gill, Jimmy Webb, Blake Shelton, Sheryl Crow, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Steve Martin, The Band Perry among others.  The film includes vintage footage and new performances of Glen’s hits.  I’ll Be Meplays across the nation in limited theaters starting October 24. 

In his 50-plus year career, Glen released over 70 albums, sold more than 45 million including 12 RIAA Gold, 4 Platinum and 1 Double Platinum album.  Glen created hits such as Rhinestone Cowboy, Wichita Lineman, Southern Nights, and Gentle on My Mind.  He was the first country music star to cross over to the pop charts.  In 1967, Glen made Grammy history by winning 4 awards that year in both country and pop categories. 

Kim realizes that some people may not understand why the family has exposed this illness so publicly or allowed Glen to perform on stage and film him in a deteriorating state where he might make “a fool of himself.”  “It’s something he wanted to do, we think it’s healthy for him, and it was worth the risk.   He’s still Glen Campbell and he wants to live his life to the fullest,” she says.  It’s gotten to the point where he doesn’t understand what anyone is saying to him, but he still understands music. 

For information on how you can purchase group tickets to I'll Be Me, or bring the film to your city, visit glencampbellmovie.com.

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