(Reuters) – Singer-guitarist Glen Campbell, the “Rhinestone Cowboy” who went on a farewell tour to play hits such as “Wichita Lineman” and “Gentle on My Mind” before Alzheimer’s disease robbed him of talents, died on Tuesday at the age of 81.
Campbell died in Nashville at an Alzheimer’s facility surrounded by his family, his publicist Sanford Brokaw said.
“It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved husband, father, grandfather, and legendary singer and guitarist, Glen Travis Campbell, at the age of 81, following his long and courageous battle with Alzheimer’s disease,” his family said in a statement posted on the singer’s official website.
Campbell announced in June 2011 that he was suffering from Alzheimer’s. The “Gentle on My Mind” singer then embarked on a nationwide farewell tour that ended in November 2012.
Campbell began his career as a well-regarded recording session guitarist in Los Angeles before becoming a fixture on the U.S. music charts, radio and television in the 1960s and ’70s. He won six Grammy Awards and had nine No. 1 songs in a career of more than 50 years.
He released a final studio album in June 2017, called “Adios,” that was recorded after the tour wrapped up.
The tour was captured in a documentary aired in 2015 by CNN, “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me,” that movingly captured him struggling with the disease. His song “I’m Not Going to Miss You” from the movie’s soundtrack won a Grammy Award for best country song.
His death on Tuesday brought tributes from country music stars.
Singer Brad Paisley thanked Campbell on Twitter “for the artistry, grace & class you brought to country music. You were a shining light in so many ways.”
Dolly Parton released a short tribute video and tweeted that he “was one of the greatest voices of all time. I will always love you, Glen!”
On his last tour, Campbell had three of his eight children playing in his backup band and providing emotional support. He clearly had memory problems on the tour, even forgetting in an interview that he suffered from Alzheimer’s. While he sometimes stumbled over lyrics or had trouble with his guitar work, critics said he still showed flashes of brilliance.
“His fingers are still able to float over his guitar neck with a fluid ease and his voice can hit notes that lesser vocalists … can barely brush against,” a Los Angeles Times critic said of a June 2012 performance.