Glen Campbell dies at 81 after battle with Alzheimer's disease

The singer revealed his diagnosis in 2011.

ByABC News
August 8, 2017, 4:56 PM

— -- Glen Campbell, known to be one of music's most successful and versatile entertainers, has died at age 81 following a battle with Alzheimer's disease, according to a statement on his website.

"It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved husband, father, grandfather, and legendary singer and guitarist, Glen Travis Campbell, at the age of 81, following his long and courageous battle with Alzheimer's disease," the statement read. "The family appreciates your prayers and respect for their privacy at this time."

Campbell revealed his diagnosis in 2011 and began his retreat from public life shortly after the announcement.

Campbell was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005, but his popularity spanned television, film and the world of pop music. Best known for his string of hits in the late '60s and '70s -- including his signature song, 1975's "Rhinestone Cowboy" -- Campbell also hosted the CBS variety show "The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour" from 1968 to 1972, which introduced him to a mainstream audience and helped him win the CMA Entertainer of the Year award in 1969.

That same year, film legend John Wayne chose Campbell to appear with him in the western "True Grit," which earned the singer a Golden Globe nomination for most promising newcomer. Campbell also sang the film's Oscar-nominated theme song.

Though he won his first two Grammy Awards for his version of John Hartford's "Gentle on My Mind," Campbell's career reached new heights when he began recording Jimmy Webb's songs, including "Wichita Lineman," "Galveston," and "By the Time I Get to Phoenix." The album "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" earned Campbell the Grammy award for album of the year in 1968. Another major hit, "Southern Nights," followed in 1977, featuring Campbell playing a signature guitar lick he picked up from his friend, Jerry Reed.

Prior to becoming a star in his own right, Campbell established himself as an in-demand session guitarist in Los Angeles. As part of the studio session group nicknamed "The Wrecking Crew," Campbell played guitar on classics including Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night," The Monkees' "I'm a Believer," and the groundbreaking Beach Boys' album "Pet Sounds." Campbell also played bass and sang high harmonies on tour with the Beach Boys in 1964 and 1965.

The late 80s and early 90s saw Glen Campbell performing regularly at his own theater in Branson, Missouri. On his 2008 album "Meet Glen Campbell" he covered songs from U2, Tom Petty, Jackson Browne and Foo Fighters to great critical acclaim.

After announcing his Alzheimer's diagnosis in 2011, Campbell released "Ghost on the Canvas" as a farewell album and subsequently embarked on what he dubbed the "Glen Campbell Goodbye Tour." He accepted the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 and performed "Rhinestone Cowboy" on the Grammy broadcast. The Band Perry and Blake Shelton also performed in his honor during the show.

Campbell's trek ran through November 2012 and featured several of Campbell's children playing in his backing band. The tour was the subject of the acclaimed documentary "Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me." He was later nominated for a best song Oscar for his contribution to the film's soundtrack.

After three marriages, Campbell made headlines in 1980 and 1981 for his high-profile, stormy relationship with fellow country singer Tanya Tucker, who was 21 years old at the time, while Campbell was 44. After meeting dancer Kim Woollen on a blind date in 1981, the couple married the following year and had three children together. He had five children from previous marriages.

Campbell is survived by his wife of more than three decades, Kim; their three children, Cal, Shannon and Ashley; his children from previous marriages, Debby, Kelli, Travis, Kane, and Dillon; ten grandchildren, great- and great-great-grandchildren; sisters Barbara, Sandra and Jane; and brothers John Wallace “Shorty” and Gerald.