Review: Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me
DVD: Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me (2014)
As a child my parents’ choice of music was nothing short of eclectic. While Mam would whoop it up to Rod Stewart (yes she did think he was sexy), my dad would be humming along to his favourite LP of Cossack Choirs singing songs from the homeland. So my music filled childhood was very interesting. Dad loved Marty Robbins, and to this day I adore the song ‘El Paso‘, while my mam loved Glen Campbell, and he was okay, but when I was about 7 or 8 mam started to play this album (yes, on vinyl, a record) ‘I Remember Hank Williams‘ and boy did that music knock me out. It’s the first time I really remember being genuinely touched by music, and since then, no matter how unfashionable it may have been, Glen Campbell has been one of my favourite singers. His voice is as singular as Frank Sinatra’s, and those who place him into the ‘country’ box should really give him another listen for no one else has a sound quite like Glen’s, he has a ‘cry’ in his voice that begs and pleads and all at once is full of love and promise. A real renaissance man who could sing, play, act and write songs.
Glen Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011, and seeing the horror of this insidious disease take away this man’s life is an intensely hard watch. This 2014 documentary by James Keach is a work of pure love for, and about, a wonderfully talented man done in the most sensitive and respectful way that just makes the whole thing so terribly painful to watch. Rather than a retrospective with lots of past inserts, we have only fleeting glimpses of Glen in his glory days, this is a full on lingering examination of his decline into Alzheimer’s. Glen’s tantrums, his ramblings, his constant ‘I don’t know’s’ could actually be heartbreaking, but when he steps onstage and just performs in a totally bloody magic way – music is the last thing to go, and having to read lyrics from a teleprompter, he still has the tune, can play that tune and still plays the guitar without a prod. But this doesn’t last, and seeing his last gig, with him becoming angry, talking to the band and repeating songs onstage IS heartbreaking. Watching his band, 3 of whom are his children, look at him with such love and care in their eyes, yet complete anxiety and fear is palpable. His love for his wife is apparent, and hers for him. His children adore him, he can’t remember their names.
Keach has made a film that highlights what a bloody awful disease Alzheimer’s is and how is can affect anyone, and although this has a huge caring heart and is very well made, it should really come with a warning – don’t watch this if you’re feeling a bit low, and even the most hardcore Campbell fan would probably not want to see it more than once because it’s so damn upsetting seeing a man who’s talent was and is huge, whose voice could make you cry and drop your drawers all at the same time. Apparently Glen in now in stage 7 of Alzheimer’s, he is living in special accommodation, has lost all his speech and doesn’t understand what anyone is saying to him. Heartbreaking. I’ll leave these final words to his daughter Ashley
“He puts a real human face on this disease that a lot of people are dealing with that we don’t really hear about a lot in the media, that’s the conversation we’re hoping to start, that it’s real and it happens to people we love and that we need to personalize it.”