May 25, 2018

Glen Campbell: A Prodigal Son Rediscovered the Father’s Love

Glen Campbell: A Prodigal Son Rediscovered the Father's Love 1

He was a global star for his exceptional talents, particularly with his superb guitar-playing skills. In his Hollywood heydays, he was the face and one of the biggest names in entertainment. On the flipside, he once again became the face of the disease that he and his family courageously coped with, Alzheimer. A documentary called “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me” was released in 2014 in his honor.

On top of these impressive feats of accomplishments, let us remember a brother through his share of a story on how God worked in his life in bringing him to a saving relationship with his son, Jesus.

The Father and His Boy

In 1994, Glen Campbell released an album he called The Boy in Me. Through it, he revealed how unhappy he had been since his father’s death. He tried and had everything but, nothing could fill the void within his heart. Fame, money, and even marital relationships failed to satisfy him. It was only after he’d finally grasped what a relationship with God looked like that he started to heal. Hence, Glen said that he’d found a father again, his heavenly Father. It’s also amusing to note that Glen considered himself a boy before God.

That description perfectly suits him though it came later in his final years. He had never been more dependent like a child to a parent when God held him up until he finished his farewell tour.

As for his family’s religion, they followed Messianic Judaism for twenty years. They attend Sabbaths on Saturdays and sang praises to the Lord in the Hebrew language. For holidays, they observe both the Jewish and Christian holidays.

The Country Boy

Born to John Wesley and Carrie Dell Campbell, Glen, seventh of twelve children, grew up in Billstown, Arkansas.

His parents were devout Christians and members of the Church of Christ. Naturally, Glen and his siblings were raised singing church hymns. As expected from a man named after the renowned Methodist preacher, John Wesley, Glen’s father, raised his family to affirm Christian values.

They were sharecroppers by profession and a musical family by passion. Hence, even at a tender age of four, Glen got his own Roebuck guitar. He first learned to sing “Where Can I Go, but to the Lord?” and the “Amazing Grace.” When he’s not helping in the cotton fields, Glen will pick up his guitar and practice playing music.

Musical Influences

Aside from his parents and Uncle Boo who bought him his first guitar, Glen also learned from several musicians. First were through listening to Jazz players, Django Reinhardt and Barney Kessel. Both men were top-notch in their fields with Reinhardt considered as one of 20th-century’s greatest musicians.

His other influencers were also men of caliber. They include Charlie Rich, Jimmy Webb, Hank Williams, The Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, Chet Atkins, Merle Travis, and John Hartford. He was also fond of his peers’ music like that of Elvis Presley, Merle Travis, and Willie Nelson.

Embarking on a Music Career

When Glen turned 14, he quit his studies to join his Uncle Dick Bills’ band, Sandia Mountain Boys. After gaining enough experience, he formed his band in 1958. They were called the Western Wranglers.

He then moved to Los Angeles and worked for the American Music Company. There, he recorded “Turn Around, Look at Me” which opened the door to his singing career under Capitol Records.

Even with his recording career, Glen’s guitar prowess was highly in demand. Hence, he worked with prominent artists including Nat King Cole, Merle Haggard, Dean Martin, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra.

In 1964, he toured with one of Grammy’s Hall of Famers, the Beach Boys.

A Brief Look at his Five Decades in the Music Business

1967-  his chart-topper “Gentle on My Mind crossed over to pop charts
1968 – Dual Honor from the Country Music Association: Entertainer of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year
March 1969 – “Galveston” likewise transcended country and pop charts
1969 – the debut of his variety show, “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour” which became a hit in both the US and the UK
1969 – nominated for the Golden Globe awards for his performance in the film, “True Grit
1975 – “Rhinestone Cowboy” became a major hit and like his first hits, it narrowed the divide between pop and country music
1977- “Southern Night” duplicated the success of the “Rhinestone Cowboy”

1994 – his autobiography titled Rhinestone Cowboy was published
2005- he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame
2008 – release of “Meet Glen Campbell,” his album of cover songs
2012 – honored by the Grammys with the Lifetime Achievement Award
2013 – Grammy named his song, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” as Best Country Song
June 2017 – he recorded his last album, “Adios” after his farewell tour

Given his endless string of talents, many artists looked up to Glen Campbell. Some who became followers of his legacy were Travis Tritt, Richard Hawley, Sawyer Brown, Hank Williams, Jr. Chris LeDoux, Lee Greenwood George Strait Larry Gatlin Alabama Sonny Burgess Brooks & Dunn and Ronnie Milsap

The Bitter Fall of a Star

Despite his strong Christian background and upbringing, Glen also fell prey to alcohol and drug addictions. His life in the 70’s was a mixture of bitter experiences despite his fame. He’d been married three times but all those relationships miserably failed. The most controversial was with singer Tanya Tucker.

Glen had enough of living without purpose. In 1981, he sought for Christ and asked to be freed from all his demons. He prayed hard and studied the bible, but was still sinking deep in sin. From an onlooker’s perspective, he’d be branded a hypocrite. But, Glen’s sincere in his desire of being changed into a better man. He was, however, having trouble getting rid of his addictions. Still, he persevered to continue begging for God’s mercy and deliverance. The Lord heard his plea and gradually lifted him up.

Marriage to Kim WoolenGlen Campbell: A Prodigal Son Rediscovered the Father's Love 2

In 1982, he married Kim Woolen. They met in New York while Glen’s on tour for concerts. Kim knew about Glen’s drinking problem when they started dating. She fell in love with her man that though his usage of cocaine bothered her, she agreed to become his wife. Glen promised to change for her.

Marriage, however, could not solve Glen’s dilemma. As a dutiful wife, Kim did all she can to help her husband change. She banned liquor in their house, and Glen would be fine for some time. Notwithstanding, once Glen’s out for concerts or is among his friends, he’d be pulled in again to alcohol and cocaine.

He even started to make excuses for his misbehaviors like making a case about the wine drinking accounts in the Bible. His favorite was the part that tells of Jesus turning water into wine. This cycle of her husband’s sin and sobriety repeatedly broke Kim’s heart.

Even on the verge of reaching her limits, Kim didn’t want to give up on her husband. Well-meaning people also advised that Glen’s hopeless. She had every reason to leave Glen but as a godly woman, she remembered that there’s nothing impossible to God. To admit defeat in their battle for Glen’s deliverance is the same as denying the transformative power of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

The Spiritual Warfare inside of Glen

Kim surrounded herself with people who supported her in prayers. She refused to believe that her husband would never change. As an answer to her prayers, God gave her some wisdom on how to deal with Glen’s nasty drinking habit. She took a cassette tape and recorded Glen while drunk. Upon hearing himself, Glen felt embarrassed and guilty. So he kept praying for Christ’s deliverance.

Such is not a new phenomenon among Christians. We’re still flesh-and-blood who are not temptation-proof. Like Glen Campbell, our lives are also a cycle of sin, repentance, and walking with God. There’s no such thing as one achieving perfection despite our mental and moral fortitudes. That would only happen in the next life. As long as we’re still breathing on earth, that’s the reality.

Still, righteous living isn’t impossible. We just need the help of strong supporters like that of Kim Campbell to her husband. Also, if we’re truly sincere, we ought to be humble and cooperate with God’s Spirit. Having these two elements, no addict is beyond help.

Glen’s spiritual battle dragged on for many years. He no longer wanted to hurt Kim and both were helpless to solve Glen’s addictions. While we didn’t know why Glen’s recovery took that long, the good news is, he, eventually did. The moment he surrendered himself to Christ’s lordship, he started changing for real. No more obsession with substance abuse and alcohol intoxication.

He finally began to experience the kind of peace that only God could give. It’s the peace that “passes all understanding.” In an interview with Guideposts, Glen said that for all that God has blessed him with, he’s the most thankful for his wife, Kim.

As for Kim Campbell, she regrets nothing even those many troubled years of her marriage with Glen. She said that those years helped deepen her understanding of God’s grace. It was her privilege to be an eye-witness of that wonderful grace in action. She did not only save her husband but also their marriage. The following years, their family lived in harmony and love.

Here’s a throwback video to the young Glen Campbell singing, “I Knew Jesus (Before He Was a Star)”

Coping with Alzheimer’s and still thankful

Heartbreaking as it may sound, Kim shared her husband’s gradual decline. Not only did her stop recognizing people particularly his loved ones but he even lost his ability to coherently talk to God. But, nothing can rob a regenerated man’s heart of his desire to worship God! In an interview with Breathecast in 2014, Kim said that she’d seen Glen walked over to the window, raise his hands up to say, “Thank you, Lord.” Even the staffs in the medical facility he was in recounted the same story.

How old should we be before we learned to be continually humble and grateful before our Lord? Though Glen suffered because of his disease, he could only think of one thing. That is to daily thank his Lord. There was no pleading for cure nor feeling pity for himself. He was perfectly at peace and surrounded by his family’s love, Glen could not ask for more but just be thankful.

The Film, “Glen Campbell, I’ll Be Me”

It’s a documentation of his farewell tour. At that time, he’s already reached Alzheimer stage 2-4. Bravely, he publicly announced about his disease. After the announcement, fans nationwide showered him with love and they doubled their support. His first show for the concert was sold out. Instead of just a five-week tour, the dates of his farewell concerts were booked to a hundred and fifty-one.

Of course, it wasn’t easy for Glen and the concert crew. There were moments he became agitated in the middle of performances. Still, the crowd cheered him on and supported him without fail.

Glen was well aware of his condition and he wanted the film to be released as a means to raise fund for further research in finding a cure for Alzheimer. His daughter, Ashley Campbell, became his spokesperson and support whenever he’s on stage. He and his family exhibited an example to the rest who were in the same predicament to keep supporting and lifting each other up.

The deeper that a loved one sinks into some kind of misery, the more solid the family’s bond should become.

Christian Material in his Recordings

Oh Happy Day (1970)
No More Night (1985)
Favorite Hymns (1989)
Jesus and Me: The Collection (1997)
Show Me Your Way (1991)
Wings of Victory (1992)
The Boy in Me (1994)
Home at Last (1997)
Jesus and Me: The Collection (1996), a song compilation from his previous albums
Love Is the Answer: 24 Songs of Faith, Hope, and Love (2004)

Despite the inconsistency between his faith and self-destructive behaviors, Glen remained consistent in his principle about music. He did not discriminate potential songs and their artists based on their genre. The same principle applied in his choice of songs for his Christian albums. They were a mixture of classic hymns and contemporary Christian songs.

The End of His Uphill Climb

After 81 years of fruitful living, the country legend went to rest high on that mountain on August 8, 2017. Scores of people mourned his passing.

But if we start paying attention to the song lineups in his later albums, we’ll see that he had prepared well his exit to the afterlife. Judging from the lyrics of the spiritual songs he left, we can deduce the intent to encourage the belief in a loving God.  Similar to the parable of the prodigal son, he left home to explore a world of excitement only to return in the end. Nevertheless, the Father welcomed him with open arms, joyful that his son came home.

As for Glen Campbell’s whereabouts now, we’re sure he’s in a better place.

Glen Campbell utilized all from his innate gift in music to his final years with Alzheimer to turn eyes to his Lord. Though he did not remain filial but turned into a prodigal son, the Heavenly Father, as the source of everything, proved that he does not waste anything. While he does not cause evil and sufferings, and though we won’t be arrogant to explain why he allows them to exist, we can only be sure that he is who he says he is. He is our loving Father and is capable of bringing out good even from bad experiences. Glen Campbell’s life story serves as a testament to that truth.

“A Better Place”

 Feel free to share your thoughts about Glen Campbell’s testimony in the comment section. For similar readings, click one of the tags below.


Editorial, glen campbell, gospel, Testimonial

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