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Glen Campbell's Very Public Battle with Alzheimer's Disease

Updated on August 8, 2017

Performing on Stage


NOTE: Today, August 8, 2017, Glen Campbell died at the age of 81. The light of his talent was bright for so long, and even when it grew dim, he was courageous enough to share its last flickers with his fans. Rest in peace, Rhinestone Cowboy, and condolences to his loving family.


I wrote the following article when Campbell recorded his final album and went on tour after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

The final video of award-winning American singer Glen Campbell, who has advanced Alzheimer’s Disease, was released featuring the song, ‘I’m Not Gonna Miss You.’ I challenge everyone to watch this video on YouTube (URL below) and listen to Campbell singing this incredibly moving song, knowing from the first line you’re going to weep, probably bawl like a baby before it ends, especially if you’ve faced the devastation of AD in a loved one.

The video is a collage of Campbell’s life--footage that includes both professional and very personal family scenes, interwoven with shots of him being placed into an MRI chamber and later sitting with his wife and the doctor who points at images of a damaged brain.

The song lyrics are heartbreaking, referring to many things Campbell used to do that his loved ones will miss about him, the tears they will cry, etc., but he describes his own demeanor by that time as the final selfish act of AD:

“I’ll be gone. I’m not gonna miss you.”

It will tear your heart out to watch the video and listen to this moving song, but it tells such a profound truth about Alzheimer's disease that it's well worth the tears. It's available on YouTube:


Alzheimer’s – the Disease that Steals Memory

I was with my mother when the neurologist diagnosed her with Alzheimer’s Disease in addition to vascular dementia caused by multiple ‘mini-strokes.’ I will never forget what she said to me after we left the doctor’s office.

“Honey, by the time it’s gotten really bad, it will hurt you a lot more than it will hurt me. I won’t realize what is happening, but I’m sorry for what you’ll go through.”

A blessing for me and other family, though not perhaps for her, was that although she forgot much and lost the ability to care for herself, the day before she left this world she still recognized me and other loved ones she saw frequently. That isn’t true for many AD patients, who are lost to their families even while they are still alive. My heart aches for the victims and their loved ones.


Remembering the Young Glen Campbell


It makes me sad to think of Glen Campbell being attacked by Alzheimer’s. In the late sixties and early seventies, I was a faithful fan of his music and comedy TV variety show, ‘The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.’ Recalling how much I enjoyed his pop hits of that time launches the strains of ‘Gentle on my Mind’ playing inside my head, his clear voice singing the lyrics. Another favorite was ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix.’ I bought his albums and played them frequently, singing along with enthusiasm.

By the late ‘70s, Campbell’s star waned as pop music evolved. He started drinking heavily, using drugs and was embroiled in a stormy relationship with country music singer Tanya Tucker, who had her own addictions. After they broke up in a booze-fueled fight that brought forth both the police and lots of tabloid coverage, he slowly pulled his life back together and rejuvenated his career with country and gospel music.

In 1981, he married his present wife, Kim, with whom he had three children who played onstage with their dad during his last few years of touring. (His three previous marriages produced five other children.) Campbell credited his family and renewed faith with banishing his demons. Life was good for more than a quarter of a century.

And then the short-term memory loss began. And worsened. Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimers in 2011 and went public with the news before beginning a global farewell tour with his wife by his side to cue him with forgotten lyrics. All along the way, he and Kim promoted awareness of Alzheimer’s Disease while their very personal struggle with the disease was on constant display.

He even made two more albums, including ‘I’ll be Me.’ He and Julian Raymond co-wrote the song, ‘I’m Not Gonna Miss You’ for that album, a very special song about his struggles with AD. It was the last one he recorded and was written for the planned documentary ‘Glen Campbell: I'll be Me.’ It premieres in New York on October 24, 2014, and a wide release will follow.

In April, 2014, Glen Campbell’s family announced that his disease was so advanced they could no longer care for him properly at home, and he was moved into a memory care/assisted living facility where they visit him every day. More than likely, the Glen his family knew for so long and still loves is ‘already gone’, much or perhaps all of the time. His song was prophetic, as he knew it would be.

Watch the video and listen to the words. Have tissues ready at hand because I promise…the tears will fall. Look at the pictures flickering by of the young, happy Glen Campbell and his family, and then see the older man. Realize how joyfully his fans enjoyed his music for decades. His life was pretty great. Sadly, the final chapter’s been stolen by AD.


The Glenn Campbell Documentary

You can watch the documentary made of Glenn Campbell's last tour with his family after his Alzheimer's diagnosis. It's available on Netflix and is a portrait of courage--not only by Glenn Campbell, but by his entire family and stage crew. No attempt is made to hide the signs of incipient AD. It was obviously a combination of happy times and sad moments, but all-in-all, a celebration of Glenn's life and talent. I hope you will watch it.

The Dreadful Alzheimer Statistics

Though his battle was made public in a bid to help remove the disease’s stigma, Glen Campbell is only one of many victims devastated by this grim malady. A recent report on NBC noted that, in the U.S. alone, someone develops AD every seventy seconds. Even more horrifying, those statistics are expected to accelerate as the population ages. And these are the numbers for only one country. Think of all the lives AD lays waste to worldwide.

Although no cure or even a long-term treatment is yet in sight from research within the traditional medical community, ramped-up AD research produced new markers that may predict who will get the disease. Scientists are focusing on numerous avenues of research in a race to find the key that will halt this monstrous disease in its tracks. May that race end successfully soon.


UPDATE, September, 2016: This week I'm watching the wonderful online video series, "Awakening from Alzheimer's." There are twelve interviews with renowned doctors who are getting great results preventing and even REVERSING the cognitive damage of Alzheimer's and other dementias by protecting and stimulating renewal of the brain with natural methods.

You won't learn about these natural methods from the traditional medical establishment or the pharmaceutical industry. Many of the former (doctors) don't know, and the latter will protect huge profits from drugs that don't work and have side effects, regardless of the impact this has on people.

I wish this information had been available to me when Alzheimer's disease (AD) ravaged my mother's brain and stole her life. That's why I want to share it with everyone to prevent the toll cognitive impairment can take, either with AD, other dementias, or age-related cognitive decline.

Don't wait! Check out this Facebook site to learn how you can get the digital and/or printed material from the series that contains life-changing information. Copy and paste this URL into your browser if it doesn't function as a link. You will have to be logged into your Facebook account to access it. (If you are one of the very few people on the planet who doesn't yet have a Facebook account, it's worth joining just for access to this valuable information.)

A book by the series' producer and interviewer, Peggy Sarlin, is available on Amazon. It's about some "maverick" doctors who went against the traditional tide of opinion regarding the treatment of Alzheimer's and other dementias. This is a terrific book, chockful of life-changing information about the new and proven natural methods to treat this horrendous disease of the brain. What Sarlin learned prompted her to create the video series. See the Amazon link below for this wonderful book. I've already put into use some things I learned from the videos and book.

Another update, March, 2017: In an advanced state of Alzheimer's, the 80-year-old Glen Campbell lives in a memory care/assisted living facility where he gets the specialized care he needs and where his wife visits him almost daily. She recently spoke out about his current condition. While the "Rhinestone Cowboy" is no longer able to actually play the guitar at this stage of AD, she says he plays "air guitar," tries to sing sometimes, and "his essence is still there."

This reminded me of the day my mother sat down to play the piano in my living room, placed her hands on the keys, sat perfectly still for a few moments and then said, "I can't." She'd been playing piano by ear since she was a teenager and continued during the early stages of dementia, but the dreadful scourge finally wiped out the part of her memory that once made beautiful music. Oddly, the loss didn't seem to upset her, but I had to leave the room to hide my tears.

Alzheimer's disease steals those skills, talents, and personality traits that made its victims who they were through all or much of their previous lives. Research continues to work toward a cure, but, in the interim, there are some natural treatments that may prevent or even reverse cognitive problems.

If you haven't read Peggy Sarlin's wonderful book, "Awakening from Alzheimer's," please do so. (Amazon link below.) I'm at increased risk for AD because my mother had it, so I am taking some of the supplements discussed. The best thing about natural treatments are the lack of side effects that often occur with pharmaceuticals.

Another book I've found very useful is "The Rhodiola Revolution," by Richard P. Brown, M.D., and Patricia L. Gerbarg, M.D., also available on Amazon. I take Rhodiola every day, and can tell the difference in my ability to focus. When you discover all the great things this amazing herb can do to protect your brain, improve concentration, and enhance cognitive performance, you may want to give it a try as well. It can even help AD patients with mild to moderate cognitive dysfunction, so please pass this information along to anyone you know whose family is coping with the memory thief.

Thanks for reading and supporting this HubPages writer!


Please join the discussion about Alzheimer's and leave comments. Your feedback is valuable to me.

NOTE: I am the author of this article, and it is owned by me in entirety. It is not available for use by reproducing in any form without my express written permission. If you see all or any part of this article (as written) on another site, please notify me where it can be found. Theft of a writer's work is plagiarism, and stealing another person's creative writing is no less wrong than any other theft.


© 2014 Jaye Denman


Submit a Comment
  • Luis G Asuncion profile image

    Luis G Asuncion 

    10 months ago from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines

    No worries. I am very glad that you've shared this hub. Thanks.

  • JayeWisdom profile imageAUTHOR

    Jaye Denman 

    10 months ago from Deep South, USA

    Thanks for reading and for your comment. Alzheimer's disease is very sad for those who have it and for their families.

  • Luis G Asuncion profile image

    Luis G Asuncion 

    10 months ago from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines

    This is a great article. Thanks for sharing. I have a friend's mother who had this kind of disease.

  • JayeWisdom profile imageAUTHOR

    Jaye Denman 

    4 years ago from Deep South, USA

    Thanks, Mel. It is sad to see Alzheimer's destroy the memory and abilities of anyone. What a cruel disease it is and one that respects no victim's talent, intelligence, personality, or character. I applaud Glen and his family for making the decision early on to tell his fans what was happening and let him make that farewell tour.

    Like you, I listened to his music "back when" and still enjoy his albums, but I cannot watch that "I'm Not Gonna Miss You" video again.


  • Mel Carriere profile image

    Mel Carriere 

    4 years ago from San Diego California

    The Wichita lineman is no longer on the line, I guess. Glen Campbell was an artist whose music transcended genre. It was appreciated by country fans and rock fans alike. I grew up with his songs, and it is sad to see him sink into this state. Great hub.

  • JayeWisdom profile imageAUTHOR

    Jaye Denman 

    5 years ago from Deep South, USA

    Lesley - Alzheimer's is a terrible disease that is cruel, not only to the person who is stricken by it, but to everyone who loves the victim. In fact, entire families and friends become the victims of AD. I hope that the numerous research studies in progress will lead to both prevention and cure for this disease.

    On a side note, I read a brief news article yesterday that Glen Campbell's two older children from his first marriage are trying to wrest control of his care from their stepmother now that he is in the later stage of the disease. It compounds the emotional pain of AD when families quarrel about their loved one's care, and the quarrels of celebrities become fodder for the media. Fortunately, Glen by this time is not aware of this discord. Just as his song predicted, he doesn't know what is going on with them, so he was spared that knowledge.

    Thanks for reading and for your comment. Regards....Jaye

  • profile image


    5 years ago

    Oh my goodness. I didn't even know. This is so sad. It always hits you more when it attacks someone you know, even if that person is a celebrity and we don't know them personally. This disease is cruel, destructive and ugly. I'm repeating what Bill called it, but it's the best word I can find right now. It is damn right ugly.

  • JayeWisdom profile imageAUTHOR

    Jaye Denman 

    5 years ago from Deep South, USA

    Shyron – Alzheimer’s Disease is a truly frightening prospect—especially for those of us with a family history of AD. There are other risk factors in addition to genetics, so the numbers of sufferers continues to grow in spite of all the research into finding a cure or preventive. I may be wrong, but believe that keeping one’s brain engaged and continuing to learn may be helpful in staving off dementia. (I hope so!) At the least, living in the moment will provide quality of life as long as possible. Of course, everyone should do this even if not known to be high risk for AD.

    I recall my own mother worrying about me and other family members after receiving her own AD diagnosis. She felt that once the disease was advanced, it would be more difficult for her loved ones to witness what was happening to her than what she would experience personally. I think Glen Campbell’s song highlights that aspect—that by that stage the individual with AD “will be gone.”

    AD is a terrible disease that robs a person of more than memory. It eventually steals all quality of life.

    Blessings and hugs back to you, my friend…..Jaye


    Mary – There are quite a few unusual claims these days for treatments that may (or may not) slow or halt Alzheimer’s, but none of them (including the ketogenic diet or consuming coconut oil daily) are backed by scientific evidence. At the same time, there are numerous research studies underway and even being “fast tracked” because it’s estimated that by 2050 one in three people will suffer from AD. I regularly search out new information about AD research and find some of it promising. For example, clinical trials are now in the second phase for a new class of drugs known as neuro-protective that may level out the disease so symptoms won’t continue to worsen. Even this level of protection (if there’s no cure on the horizon) would be better than what is available now.

    I hope you had a box of tissues nearby when you watched and listened to the Glen Campbell video. I feel he was very brave to share his condition with fans, as were his family members.

    Take care….Jaye

  • mary615 profile image

    Mary Hyatt 

    5 years ago from Florida

    I keep reading about all these wonderful "cures" for AD, and also how we can prevent the disease, but more and more people are afflicted with AD. I always like Glen story is very sad. I will watch the video later tonight.

  • Shyron E Shenko profile image

    Shyron E Shenko 

    5 years ago from Texas

    Jaye, this hit too close to home for me. and I am scared. I love the song and yes the tears fell as I listened to the words.

    You and I watched the same things on TV. My father was drafted the day I was born in WWII. Dad's mom had AD. It is a sad disease no matter who has it.

    Voted up, UABI and shared

    Blessings always, and Hugs


  • JayeWisdom profile imageAUTHOR

    Jaye Denman 

    5 years ago from Deep South, USA

    Thanks, Shanmarie. I hope you will have time to read the entire article, which highlights the bravery of both Campbell and his family in exposing his developing condition to fans.

    Alzheimer's is truly a devastating disease--for the sufferer and also for his or her loved ones. My own mother lived the last three years of her life with me and was diagnosed with AD.

    There's a lot of research in progress, but there is still no treatment that really stops or reverses damage. Meanwhile, the numbers of AD sufferers keep increasing.



  • shanmarie profile image

    Shannon Henry 

    5 years ago from Texas

    You've caught my attention with this hub. Unfortunately, I do not have time to read it through right now. However, I'll be back as soon as I can to read it. I've followed some of his struggle because I'm in the middle of a project about Alzheimer's. It's a heart-breaking condition.

  • JayeWisdom profile imageAUTHOR

    Jaye Denman 

    6 years ago from Deep South, USA

    Thanks, Peg, for your insightful comments and reminiscences about Glen Campbell. Although the video is almost guaranteed to make you tearful, I think you will find the song lyrics profound. His willingness to sing for the public about such a personal and undoubtedly devastating experience, I find extremely courageous and giving.

    I'm sorry your mother's memory is slipping away. Your admonition to appreciate our loved ones is right on target. I feel sure you cherish every minute spent with your mom and show her that you do. We can't give them too many hugs, smiles and 'I-love-you's when the familiar becomes confusing. While there are many difficulties in being the caregiver for someone with any memory-loss condition, there are also many blessings. Jaye

  • PegCole17 profile image

    Peg Cole 

    6 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

    Jaye, this is a moving tribute and important reminder to appreciate our family while we can. I can clearly remember Glen Campbell in his finest hours, while his hit tunes played constantly on the radio. ("I am a Lineman for the County...") We watched his TV show with enthusiasm. We were enamoured by the news coverage of the difficulties of stardom which led to his marital issues. (Mac Davis?)

    I'm so sorry to hear about your mother and her struggles with this devastating disease. Thankfully for them, they slip quietly into the silence of their memories, but not so for those who care for them. My own mother is approaching ninety and everyday it is a shock to realize what she is losing in the way of her memory.

    I could not watch the video just yet, but I will soon. I saw an excerpt on TV from the program. Very heart wrenching.

    Voted up all the way except funny.

  • JayeWisdom profile imageAUTHOR

    Jaye Denman 

    6 years ago from Deep South, USA

    Thanks, Mary, for the vote, feedback and your addition to the discussion. I think you'll find value in the video--especially the song--if you can bring yourself to view it and listen to the lyrics. The entertainer was a very brave man to 'put it all out there' in an attempt (while he was still able) to educate the world about AD.


  • tillsontitan profile image

    Mary Craig 

    6 years ago from New York

    I couldn't watch the video Jaye. Just reading this made me cry. This horrible devastation of a person is just too hard to understand.

    What a wonderful man Glen Cammpbell IS to have done what he did. God bless him and his family.

    Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

  • JayeWisdom profile imageAUTHOR

    Jaye Denman 

    6 years ago from Deep South, USA

    Mona - It is wonderful that Glen Campbell recorded music about Alzheimer's Disease while he was still able to perform (his condition has now worsened). He made the decision soon after his diagnosis to play and sing as long as he could and to use the opportunity to tell the world about the scourge that is AD. I think he was very brave and caring.

    Regards, Jaye

  • grand old lady profile image

    Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

    6 years ago from Philippines

    It's sad to know that Glen Campbell has alzheimer's disease, but how wonderful that he is using his musicl to promote knowledge of the disease so others who are dealing with a relative with alzheimers will help to understand the sickness better.

  • JayeWisdom profile imageAUTHOR

    Jaye Denman 

    6 years ago from Deep South, USA

    Flourish - Thanks for reading, your vote, feedback and sharing this hub. Yes, Alzheimer's is a terrible disease, and a cure is badly needed. Jaye


    Thanks, John. I didn't see that TV special but know that Glen Campbell was honored by the CMA and Grammy shows, and he also did some televised interviews. I think his farewell tour was a brave way (by both Glen and his family who were with him onstage) to build public awareness of AD. I read somewhere that when his memory failed him in the middle of a song, audiences would begin singing to help him remember. Jaye


    Thanks for reading, handymanbill, and for your feedback. There will be a lot of damp tissues as people watch the video and listen to the moving lyrics of the song, but it will educate those who aren't familiar with the ravages of Alzheimer's Disease.

    By the way, I bookmarked your profile page with its links to all your DIY home project hubs. It's terrific of you to share your expertise.

    Regards, Jaye

  • handymanbill profile image


    6 years ago from Greensburg Pennsylvania

    It is a shame for a person so talented as Glen Campball should have to go through this. It does cause wet eye's to watch.

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 

    6 years ago from Queensland Australia

    How sad Jaye. Sorry you had to experience this personally with your mother and Glen Cambell's story is also a sad one. The video is a tear jerker. I saw a special on tv about 12 months ago where he discussed his his battle with AD and I think he was still performing at the time it was filmed. Thank you for sharing this.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    6 years ago from USA

    So sad. I wasn't aware he had Alzheimer's. I'm sorry this terrible disease claimed your mother and hope there is soon a cure. Voted up and more and sharing.

  • JayeWisdom profile imageAUTHOR

    Jaye Denman 

    6 years ago from Deep South, USA

    Bill - It's impossible to see that video and listen to the lyrics of the song without being moved. I'm so sorry about your friend. You're right about AD--it's an ugly disease. How terrible to watch a bright personality disappear.

    Thanks for reading and your comment.


  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    6 years ago from Olympia, WA

    I saw that video today as a matter of fact, and I am pretty sure my eyes were wet throughout. My best friend was diagnosed at the age of 45...he is now 54 and cloudy skies have blotted out most of the sunshine for this once vibrant man. This disease is just plain ugly.



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