Glen Campbell & His Wife Discuss Singer’s Battle With Alzheimer’s
First Published: August 24, 2011 4:01 PM EDT Credit: Access Hollywood
LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- It was back in June when country music legend Glen Campbell made the very personal disclosure that he is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.
The “long goodbye” – a phrase originated by Nancy Reagan in 1994 when former President Ronald Regan made his illness public – is taking its toll on Glen and his wife Kim.
In a new interview with Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush, it was clear that Glen has no intention of just fading away – but while the 75-year-old legend still performs just like he did when he first shot to stardom more than 40 years ago, ask him a question and his struggle with Alzheimer’s is painfully apparent.
“How are you feeling right now, because we know you’re in the early onset of Alzheimer’s – how are you feeling at this moment?” Billy asked Glen.
“Oh wonderful,” Glen smiled. “I haven’t found that out yet. It ain’t hit me. I don’t know where that came from.”
During the interview with Glen and his wife Kim at New York’s London NYC Hotel, the singer was – at times – confused, something Kim says began to surface around the time of Glen’s 2003 DUI arrest and jail time.
“When did you first notice that something changed?” Billy asked Kim.
“Well, there were some memory issues starting about then. You know, could’ve been the drinking. I didn’t know what was going on,” Kim explained. “They call it mild cognitive impairment and sometimes that develops into Alzheimer’s and sometimes it doesn’t. But in this case, they have determined it has progressed into Alzheimer’s.”
“Well how come I ain’t got it yet?” Glen interrupted. “I don’t feel it. I don’t get it.”
“It’s not something you feel, but you’ve noticed your memory’s going a little bit, right?” Kim asked her husband of nearly 30 years.
“No, that was something I just wanted to get rid of,” Glen joked dismissively.
These days, it’s Kim who fills in the blanks for Glen, even describing his new album “Ghost on the Canvas,” produced by his friend Julian Raymond.
One song in particular, “A Better Place,” which was co-written by Glen, includes the lyrics “Lord, my past gets in the way/I need the ones I love Lord/More and more…” – a song which has clearly taken on a new meaning for the ailing singer.
“When were you writing that song?” Billy asked Glen.
“Who wrote that song?” Glen asked, to which wife Kim interjected “You and Julian.”
“Julian, yeah,” Glen replied.
As Kim explained, the songwriting process was a different type of collaboration.
“Julian kept a log of everything he would say during the day and then Julian put these things to music, so that’s how the co-written songs were done,” she explained. “They really do reflect the past three or four years feeling a little confused and just really wanting family around him.”
After meeting on a blind date and tying the knot nearly three decades ago, Glen and Kim have endured their share of ups and downs, including Glen’s bouts with drug and alcohol abuse.
“Did you ever tell him, ‘I’m going to throw you out of here?’” Billy asked Kim.
“Well, there was a time when we were first married that he did relapse and do some cocaine and I told him I was going to leave him,” Kim revealed. “He was not accepting of that and that was the last time.”
“What kept this one together Kim?” Billy inquired.
“I think our faith in God has always been the thing that’s anchored us and brought us through the hard times,” she said.
Next week, Glen will hit the road one last time on a farewell tour – with his kids as his backing band, showing that the iconic singer isn’t about to sit back and let his disease get the best of him just yet.
“How does it affect what’s going to be on this tour?” Billy asked of the Alzheimer’s.
“Well, it’s amazing because the long-term memory is there so when he walks on stage, it’s just like all of a sudden he’s in his element and does a great show,” Kim said. “He uses a teleprompter onstage – that helps.”
“But when people get that diagnosis, they usually wait for things to happen. Glen Campbell is going out on the road and taking it to the fans,” Billy noted.
“We want to cherish each day and live life and enjoy our kids,” Kim told Billy. “I try not to think about the illness too much. We take each day as it comes and just try to enjoy life.”
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