One of the greatest performers in country music history, Glen Campbell received his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in 2010. Accompanied by his family, he embarked on his last tour to say farewell to his fans. This documentary follows him and his family on the tour, and on their journey of learning to accept and live with the progression of Glen’s disease.
Music as medicine
Glen’s remarkable musical talent – something that brought him exquisite success his whole life – has clearly left an imprint in his brain. During the tour he connected to what he does the best and loves the most, becoming himself again for that time. The importance of this special connection in his ability to continue to perform also played a huge role in how he remained vivacious for so long. The tour was a celebration of his life; everyone who loved him got to honour him and remember his life with him.
“Music is the last thing to go. It’s the most deeply embedded thing in his memory, soul and spirit. To me Glen is returning, the twinkle in his eye, the way he enjoys the music just reminds me of way he really is, the way he was when I met him.”
Transparency is a constructive policy
Glen and his family’s decision to share the news of his Alzheimer’s was a greatly helpful and impactful move. Everyone, including fans, peers and colleagues, was receptive to his honesty and empathetic with him and his condition. Glen’s choice to go public with what he was going through started an extensive conversation that only a beloved superstar can trigger. Not only was his coming forward continuously covered by the media, but he and his wife also urged politicians to prioritize this devastating disease on their agenda.
He exposed millions of fans to his story, thus raising awareness, and his transparency caused a chain reaction. Plenty of other stars came forward with their own personal stories of someone being affected in their family. Glen, with the help of his family, the media and further celebrities, made his otherwise very private illness a high profile issue in the collective conscience; the attention was drawn to the magnitude of the problem in our modern society and the burden it puts on the families.
“So many blessings tied up in this. I mean think about all the things happening to him, and the gift that he’s giving and the gift that he’s receiving. How he’s touching people’s lives and how many people who are going through this with their family members feel so seen because he’s opening up such a conversation”
Personal and vulnerable – not just for him
“It’s hard to come to the realization, that someday my dad might look at me and I will be absolutely nothing to him”
It is not only him who is seen in his most vulnerable state. It is also his family, who open up and share their feelings about what is happening to Glen, and what their worries are for the future. Plenty of raw home footage is included throughout the film; documentation showing his personality and abilities slowly changing. He is more impatient, has outbursts and tends to be difficult when working or being with others. Otherwise effortless tasks become harder to do each day, such as tying his shoelaces or finding the bathroom in their home. He struggles to recognize family members and most times cannot recall their names either. His inhibitions start loosening – he picks up childlike behaviours and becomes obsessive about minor issues. In his clearer moments, when he has some awareness of what is happening in him, he expresses his appreciation for his wife in his charmingly country manner; “I’m a shithead half the week and you sure are really nice to me.”
The film follows his coping with disappearing bit by bit. In concerts where he forgets the lyrics or repeats the same songs his self-reflective humour and the already existing awareness of his disease creates a supportive atmosphere. His ‘mistakes’ are not seen as the failure of a once great musician, but as one last incredible opportunity to celebrate his outstanding life’s work with him before he is all gone. Glen’s genuine vulnerability and openness about his Alzheimer’s disease made an impact that along with his wonderful music became his legacy.