Legendary country music singer Glen Campbell — best known for “Rhinstone Cowboy” and “Gentle On My Mind” — has died, according to his family.
The announcement was made on his official Twitter account, which linked followers to a statement on the singer’s 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.
Campbell sold 45 million records over a 50-year career. He had 21 Top 40 hits, including “Wichita Lineman” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” and Rolling Stone notes that, in 1968, he even outsold the Beatles. In addition to his iconic career as a singer, he was known as a brilliant studio guitarist and a popular television host.
Campbell was born the seventh son of a sharecropping family in Billstown, Arkansas, in 1936. He started playing guitar as a young child and dropped out of school when he was 14 to pursue a career as a musician. He first played tiny bars in Wyoming before eventually making his way to Los Angeles, where he started building a career as a session player. In 1963, he played on nearly 600 tracks, including the Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man,” Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas,” and the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.” In 1965, he toured with the Beach Boys after Brian Wilson suffered a nervous breakdown. He also played on parts of the band’s iconic Pet Sounds LP.
Meanwhile, Campbell struggled with a solo career on Capitol Records before finally breaking out in 1967 with a cover of John Hartford’s “Gentle On My Mind,” which hit the Top 40. His next single, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” hit No. 2 on the country chart. He went on to win four Grammys in the country and pop categories in 1967 and was named the Country Music Awards Entertainer of the Year in 1968.
From 1969 until 1972, Campbell hosted a variety show called The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour on CBS. He also appeared with John Wayne in the 1969 film True Grit and starred as a singing Vietnam vet in the 1970 film Norwood. In 2005, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Earlier this year, Campbell released the single “Adios” to say goodbye to family, friends and fans. He is survived by his wife, Kim Campbell, and eight children.
[Featured Image by Angela Weiss/Getty Images For The Open Hearts Foundation]