Glen Campbell (1936-2017) was, in my view, one of the best natural musicians that I have ever encountered, probably the best guitar player. As you will note if you watch the interview above with Bob Costas, he also was a very charming, natural, and funny man. (It took Costas a few minutes to see what Campbell was really saying about his acting in the movie True Grit that earned John Wayne his best actor gig. He was subtly suggesting that he was so bad that he made Wayne look very good.)
As talented as he was, Campbell authored very few songs. If you know a song in that has the words, “There is someone, walking behind you, turn around look at me…” it is said to have been written by Jerry Neal Capehart. Campbell co-authored it, and was promised credit (and associated royalties) by Capehart, who never came through. This, a story told by Campbell, and not known to be true, but Campbell merely walking away and doing nothing about it would be typical of the man.
But not being an accomplished song writer does not surprise me. I have speculated often that it is rare to nonexistent to find in one person the ability to play an instrument with expertise, to sing well, to be an engaging performer, AND to write music. This is why I think there are secret song writers, secret song writing committees, [and computer algorithms?] and people who claim credit for writing those songs who did not do so. I think of people like John Denver, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and imagine what phonies they are! What kind of oaths are taken for people behind the scenes to write music claimed to have been written by others, and stay mum about it for life. Of course Denver, et al, have musical talent, but the Beatles surely understood the Monkees well enough not to say anything while the Monkees openly admitted not writing their own music or playing their own instruments. The Beatles never got around to such an admission.
Which reminds me (I’ve been on a music kick this weekend while working a large non-blog project) – I watched an interview with Hal Blaine, a member of The Wrecking Crew (as was Campbell), and the hidden drummer for most of the big Top 40 hits over the period 1965-1975. (Bruce Gary, drummer for The Knack, once said he was disappointed to find that his 10 favorite drummers turned out to all be Hal Blaine.) Blaine talked about Bryan Wilson at length, watching him deteriorate but also admiring his great talent. He referred to the others in the group as “the singing Beach Boys,” since they were all happy not to have to play in studio and to come in only to lay vocal tracks. The rest of the sound we know of as The Beach Boys, like so many other groups, was The Wrecking Crew.
I close with a line from Campbell in the Costas interview that made me laugh hard and out loud. I admire Campbell because he was real, not some contrived star from a hidden regal bloodline. He grew up on a farm in Arkansas, with eleven brothers and sisters. As he said to Costas, “I didn’t know what it was like to sleep alone until I got married.”