40 Years Later…

July 15, 2012 at 6:05 pm (Atlanta, Georgia) (, , , , )

The familiar “mod” zinnia from the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour

When I was sixteen,  I was mad in love with Glen Campbell.  I joined his fan club.  I did pastel drawings of him and mailed them.  I was jealous of his wife Billie.  My whole family watched his Goodtime Hour every Sunday (my mother liked him, too).

So now Glen, my love of forty years, is fading away.  He’s going not just gracefully, but with joie de vivre, saying his concert farewells on the Goodbye Tour.   I saw him last night in Atlanta’s Chastain Park Amphitheatre, with headliner Kenny Rogers.  The turnout was modest, but enthusiastic for both singers.  I think we all knew that Glen Campbell has Alzheimer’s disease, which means he forgets lyrics and acts kinda goofy.  But I remembered the words, plucked from the hard drive in the brain that remembers every song you ever sang when you were 18, but can’t retain information inputted an hour earlier. 

From the cheap seats on the lawn, I had a great view via my birding binoculars.  Glen’s three children from his fourth marriage, sons Cal and Shannon, and daughter Ashley played in the band.  He opened with “Gentle on My Mind”, and moved into the other hits that made me fall for him:  “By the Time I get to Phoenix,”  “Wichita Lineman,”  “Try a Little Kindness.”   And “Galveston.”

Classic Glen, just older, that’s all

I remember putting the “Galveston” cassette into my portable player and turning it on during a family trip on the Port Bolivar ferry to Galveston.  When you hear those songs from your childhood, they put you back into that space, with all its angst and hope, and sometimes you cry.  So I was glad to be in the cheap seats way up high without too many people around.

Towards the end he sang “Rhinestone Cowboy,” which was clearly a crowd favorite.  Then, since it was indeed a Southern night under the thinning clouds, with tree frogs chiming in and bats chasing skeeters, he sang “Southern Nights” to another standing ovation.  And then he ended with the poignant conclusion, “A Better Place,” with lyrics that sum up his illustrious life, and point to the sad new one ahead.

I’ve tried and I have failed, Lord
I’ve won and I have lost
I’ve lived and I have loved, Lord
Some times, at such a cost

One thing I know
The world’s been good to me
A better place, awaits you’ll see

Some days I’m so confused, Lord
My past gets in my way
I need the ones I love, Lord
More and more each day

Oooh, a better place. 

Bless you, Glen.

Glen Campbell, 40 years later

Kenny Rogers had a great schtick for his set.  He picked out a guy from the audience named Paul, who he was sure was dragged there by his wife and couldn’t really care less about Rogers’ music.  He tossed him a $10 bill for naming one of his hits, and promised more ten-spots each time Paul raised his hand when he recognized another hit.  Paul wound up with $70, but what amazed me was that Kenny could aim those paper bills with accuracy from about 20 feet away.  What if there had been a breeze?

Of course there were many crowd favorites, including “Coward of the County,” “She Believes in Me,” “The Gambler,” and “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town.”  During one of the songs he had a slide show of his wife and twin boys, now eight years old, and then they came out and were introduced to the crowd.  The thing is, I hate when old men marry sweet young things and then start new families.  They should have to stick it out with decrepit old farts like we “women of a certain age” do.   No fair.  But that aside, it was a great show.  I don’t understand why they didn’t draw a bigger audience.  Maybe because so many of his fans are now gone?  After all, Glen Campbell is 76 and Rogers is nearly 74.  Some of my childhood friends didn’t make it to their 40s.

It was a Southern night I will long cherish.

Chastain Park Amphitheater, Atlanta, Georgia

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