A documentary by James Keach. Rating unavailable.
For his first documentary feature, long-time actor-director James Keach follows the guitarist, singer, Grammy winner, and session man extraordinaire for roughly two years, on a wide-ranging tour that will almost certainly prove to be Glen Campbell’s last public stand.
Previously, the performer was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and the director also tags along as Campbell and his long-suffering fourth wife, Kim, visit various specialists in preparation for his Goodbye Tour.
Also on the bus are Campbell’s kids Cal, Ashley, and Shannon—a musical team that’s a support group as much as it is a backing band. By the time he gets to Phoenix, Galveston, and, of course, Wichita, Campbell’s condition has worsened. It’s not just loss of memory; he’s increasingly combative, and there are obsessive episodes and lots of compensatory joking. Audiences are clued in, however, so when the singer goes off-script in his stage patter, they’re forgiving.
The most impressive thing here, as Oliver Sacks and other neurologists have lately observed, is the amazing stickiness of music. This rhinestone cowboy may occasionally garble lyrics, but the melodies remain intact.
And when he ups the volume on his midnight-blue Stratocaster, the solos (mostly) come out loud and clear, suggesting that nonverbal communication is the last thing to go, and therefore one of the first things that make us human.
There’s some pretty cool archival stuff here, to illustrate the subject’s role in the Wrecking Crew and as a TV host and occasional film actor. This demonstrates what he’s giving up, and sooner than most artists who outlive their careers. (Bruce Springsteen, Kathy Mattea, and other familiar fans show up on camera to tout the influence of Campbell, who recently turned 79.)
As heard in the heartbreakingly named “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”, likely his last stab at songwriting, sometimes it’s easier to forget than to be forgotten.