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Glen Campbell has Alzheimers

GlenCALZ1One of the first times I can recall meeting Glen Campbell was somewhere in the early days of the “Goodtime Hour” when everyone was wearing beads and leather, trying to get in touch with their inner “selves” and wondering, “What’s it all about Alfie”?

I was trying to peddle a song to Campbell and a buddy of mine who knew him from the recording studio days took me down to the studio barn where the show was being shot. It was during rehearsal time and Glen had given us permission to come in.

For those who haven’t experienced a big time TV show set, the term “organized chaos” immediately comes to mind. The Marty Paich orchestra was going over a music selection, sound and lighting techs were running around like ants working on shot angles, and over on one side of the set, leaning up against a fake wall partition was Glen Campbell playing the strings off a guitar on a song he was getting ready to perform. Even though he couldn’t read a note of music, there was a reason he was one of the busiest guitar players in Los Angeles long before the Smothers Brothers grabbed him up to do their summer replacement series.This incredibly talented guitarist who learned the “abc’s” of his craft in barrooms and honkytonks throughout the southwest, had a skill and talent level most guitarists could only dream about and I was one of them!

The man could play! Once you got close enough to hear him “noodling” around on the song he was working on, you had to be in total awe of his musicianship as well as his incredible speed, accuracy, and musical inventiveness on the guitar neck. He wasn’t showing off, this was a master musician at work and you knew, whencampbellshowtime came along, once again, the world would get to see what Glen Campbell, ex studio guitarist and present day big time TV performer was all about!

That was then, this is now, and a lot of songs have been played since those bygone days. Glen Campbell, one of my big time music idols, has Alzheimer’s, and it’s breaking my heart.

If everything went the way it’s supposed to in that John Wayne idea of things you have mapped out in your mind, Campbell would be casually sitting on his very comfortable Malibu back porch reaching out every now and then and playing a few notes on a guitar he always  keeps close by, while the grandkids play on the lawn or chase the dog and his wife would come out every once in a while to refresh his iced tea.

Reality sings a different kind of tune.

Today, his wife always sits close by to make sure he doesn’t wander off. She feeds and dresses him, helps him go to the bathroom so that he doesn’t pee in the corner and helps him do just about everything that needs doing except play the guitar which is about the only thing this disease has left him capable of doing. That great skill is also slowly fading and it’s a shame the way Alzheimer’s robs you of everything inch by slow, tortuous inch. Oddly, for a great many, music, in whatever form you may have been acquainted with it in your previous life seems to be one of the very last, few things folks with Alzheimer’s can still relate to, or take pleasure from. In the recent special done for television, I was struck by the way Campbell could still remember and play his part in a musical duet he did with his daughter even though he couldn’t remember her name!

These days, I occasionally get to work at some of the retirement communities in the “Memory Care” section of their facility. It’s always interesting to me that in some of the places I play, the attendants will bring out cymbals and sticks and wood blocks plus anything else you can beat out a rhythm on, and the residents are happy with that! Even though they may no longer know the melody or the words, the fact that they can still beat out a rhythm to “I’ve been working on the railroad,” or something of that nature, makes everyone happy and still lights up their world!

Alzheimer’s is a cruel crippler. It’s nature’s medical hoax slowly playing out and robbing us inch by inch, day by day, of every cognitive impulse we’ve ever had, and somehow music seems to be the last thing to go. Isn’t it a shame that at this time in our society, we can still spend untold billions on bullets and bombs and yet research money to cure this insidious disease travels at a pace only snails could envy! We need to rethink that!

Have a great week everybody.

Rod Taylor                                              http://www.allaroundseniors.net

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