Out of all the Glen Campbell tributes that have followed the country music legend’s death, Jimmy Webb’s may be one of the more poignant and touching.
Although the name might not ring a bell to a lot of modern-day music fans, Webb was the man who wrote some of Campbell’s biggest hits as a “crossover country” artist, including “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Wichita Lineman.” Moreover, he was one of the first people to honor Campbell after he passed away Tuesday at the age of 81, following a six-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
In his Glen Campbell tribute, Jimmy Webb wrote on his official Facebook page that his longtime friend and co-collaborator’s passing was inevitable, given his recent and well-documented health issues. He referred to Campbell not only as a huge influence on pop music in general but also as the “American Beatle,” and the “secret link” between a variety of artists. And while he started out by sharing memories of their many years of close friendship, Webb made sure to emphasize that Campbell was more than just one of the biggest names in country music, but also someone who appreciated different genres of music and stood out as a very underrated guitar player.
“He was recognized internationally in that unchartered fraternity of the very hot players, like (Dire Straits guitarist) Mark Knopfler, Jeff Beck and Paul McCartney.”
Jimmy Webb’s Glen Campbell tribute also referenced the late singer’s brief tenure with the Beach Boys, where he had temporarily replaced Brian Wilson in the band’s touring lineup in the mid-1960s. Aside from helping inform the Beach Boys’ sound in “subtle” ways, Campbell was also credited by Webb as a big fan of duos such as the Everly Brothers, the Righteous Brothers, and Flatt and Scruggs, as well as jazz legend Django Reinhardt, whom Glen claimed was one of his biggest influences as a guitar player.
There was also Campbell’s dedication to his family, friends, and fans, and his desire to entertain the people who watched their shows and leave them “feeling just a little tad better about themselves.
“One of his favorite songs was ‘Try A Little Kindness’ in which he sings ‘shine your light on everyone you see.’ My God. Did he do that or what? Just thinking back I believe suddenly that the ‘raison d’etre’ for every Glen Campbell show was to bring every suffering soul within the sound of his voice up a peg or two.”
Further underscoring Glen Campbell’s dedication as an entertainer, Jimmy Webb paid tribute to his friend by calling him a “majestically grateful and kind, top rate performer,” even on his worst nights on stage.
As noted by the Rolling Stone, Jimmy Webb was a fan of Campbell’s from the time he was just 14-years-old, while Glen, then in his mid-20s, was a struggling young singer with little name recall in the worlds of pop and country music. At that time, Jimmy had become captivated by Campbell’s 1961 song “Turn Around, Look at Me,” and as an aspiring songwriter, he prayed that he would one day be able to have Campbell record one of his songs.
His prayers were answered six years later when Campbell made Webb’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” a big hit on the pop and country charts. Webb had written several more songs for his friend, including the title song of his final album, Adios, which was released in June.
Rolling Stone also quoted some comments that Jimmy Webb made earlier this year, as he was, even then, paying tribute to Glen Campbell’s many accomplishments, and comparing his impact on American music to the Beatles’ impact on British music.
“He played with all kinds of genres, with different instrumentation and different styles. If it was a just and righteous world, Glen would be credited as one of the great, seminal influences of all time. He was a secret weapon in the armory of Sixties record producers.”
[Featured Image by Angela Weiss/Getty Images]