Any family that’s had to deal with Alzheimer’s disease knows the devastating route it takes to annihilate a loved one. Country singer Glen Campbell carved his place in country music royalty decades ago and now, as the disease continues to ravage his mind and body, he was given a beautiful gift (or rather, the audience was given a beautiful gift) with the final song penned to cap off an extraordinary career. It was performed at the Academy Awards, by Tim McGraw.
Many may recall when Glen Campbell revealed he had Alzheimer’s disease in 2011. He intended to move forward for as long as he could, and that included the decision to record an album, play more than 150 concerts to promote it, star in a documentary about life with Alzheimer’s and win awards for its leading song. The 78 year old megastar is said to be in the “late stages” of the disease.
Campbell’s wife announced she would attend the Academy Awards, with Tim McGraw set to perform Campbell’s nominated song, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” which won a Grammy Award. Kim Campbell explained that her husband has always been a big fan of McGraw’s and that his agreeing to sing it would make nothing short of magical and emotional as well.
Campbell’s nomination is one of two Oscar nods related to Alzheimer’s disease this year. Julianne Moore is favored to win the best actress award for her portrayal of an early-onset Alzheimer’s patient in “Still Alice.” But Campbell’s nominated song plays at the conclusion of his documentary, “Glen Campbell… I’ll Be Me.”
He and his wife have been married for 32 years and she’s often seen in the documentary. It’s based on his life after the Alzheimer’s diagnosis. He continued his global performances as long as he could, even as his wife worried about the stress of all the travel and fast paced world of touring.
She said she worried that perhaps his fans would not want to see someone with Alzheimer’s perform and that they may not want to remember her husband in that way. She couldn’t have been more wrong. Every show was a sell-out and in every single one of those shows, he “shined brightly”. The music was intact, even as his memory faded. His wife said it was nothing short of miraculous.
She explained that “off stage, he had Alzheimer’s, but on stage, it was like Glen is back!” In fact, each performance was so well-received, and Mr. Campbell so enjoyed his time on stage, that they extended what was to be a five-week tour into nearly two years, the documentary crew following along.
There’s even a clip where Campbell is writing the song that McGraw sang. The clip shows him with his producer, Julian Raymond, complete with Campbell’s famous sense of humor, stating when asked about his experience so far with Alzheimer’s, “It’s fine. I just don’t remember anything!”
“It’s a very uplifting film, and funny. It’s about love and family, having a good attitude and Glen’s music,” Kim Campbell said. She went on to say that watching it gives her comfort, much like “being wrapped in a warm blanket of love.”
Hopefully, Mr. Campbell’s story will serve as a reminder to researchers and lawmakers the “face” of the disease and the importance of continued funding for finding a cure for what’s considered a long term condition. It should also serve as a reminder to government programs, like Medicaid and Medicare, the importance of helping those with these diagnoses live as comfortably and healthy as possible.
Quick programming note: CNN will broadcast the PCH Films documentary in June 2015.