Gentle On My Mind

If you follow my blog, you’ll be aware of the loss of my father in February and how it affected me directly and in much more subtle ways. More recently, it’s been a strange source of memory trigger, and also a sort of cathartic, self-help in the form of the latest album from the legendary all American golden boy, Mr Glen Campbell.

Known for his timeless hum along classics, such as Wichita Lineman,Galveston and Gentle On My Mind, he has been a softly spoken undercurrent in all our lives sound tracks but never really a scene stealer. Everyone knows a few of his songs, Rhinestone Cowboy anyone? but few will admit to having bought his albums. Like many people my age or from similar backgrounds, I grew up with the sound of Elvis, one of Glenn’s close friends and someone he performed with, and Glenn himself on the radio or record player whenever times were good or bad.

Recently, Glenn was diagnosed with that most heartless of illnesses, Alzheimer’s.  Rather than lay down and let it take his spirit, he decided to go out for one more tour,one final album, while his deteriorating health would still allow him to. As a writer and singer of honest, simple songs, unfettered by fancy melodies or complex deep lyrics, his songs always slipped in some of the most jaw dropping phrases.

“And I need you more than want you/ And I want you for all time”

With the growing threat from Alzheimer’s, Campbell wrote again from life, from the heart, telling anyone who would care to listen to his strong but soft voice in the background, just what it was like for him now and how he was dealing with the illness. The lines from Ghost On The Canvas, the album, hint heavily.

“I know a place between life and death for you and me/Let’s take hold on the threshold of eternity”

“I’m never gonna fade away/Your love won’t allow me to/Can’t you see?/I love you”

It’s raw stuff. I know my father would never have openly discussed how he was really feeling to anyone but my mother. He also knew, inside, that his time was short. The treatment he had started would have maybe given him an extra 18 months, if he had survived it. He didn’t moan or ask why it was him . He was not the sort to feel sorry for himself. Even as ill as he was near the end, he would still offer family a lift home if it was raining, or struggle to his feet and insist on making drinks for guests. But he never ever stopped adoring my mother, the woman he met as a young man and never slept apart from until his first course of operations for the cancer in their entire married life. That’s over fifty years of companionship.

The words that touch me hardest, make me breath deep and swallow hard, are the ones that connect so sharply with my father’s attitude. He feared being a problem more than being ill. He was a proud man who didn’t like needing help with the basic things and would turn his hand to anything, learning new skills and applying them all the time.

Because of this, the track ‘Any Trouble’ will always bring my father to mind.

“Don’t go
To any trouble
You know
I won’t be here long

Hold me like a breath
You can count on me to 10
And any trouble you got
Will be gone”

More lyrics:
All about Glen Campbell:
Guardian Article


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