Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Rant #948: A Living Death

This will be an entry about two of our most talented guitarists.

First off, I heard last night that Richie Havens died.

I was not a super Havens fan, but I respected this musician and activist tremendously.

What he could do with a guitar ... well, nobody else could do things like that, nobody I've seen, at least.

He learned to play guitar in a different way than other musicians, and although his technique looked harsh, it produced beautiful melodies.

Now, let me segueway into something, unfortunately, that is akin to Havens' passing in more ways than one.

And let me preface it again by saying how unfortunate what I am going to say is, and how unfortunate the situation I will talk about today is.

It was just announced that Glen Campbell, maybe the greatest guitarist I have ever seen, will not tour anymore.

He has Alzheimer's Disease, and it has gotten so bad that he simply cannot get up on stage anymore and play to audiences.

Campbell was diagnosed with the disease a few years back, but he continued to perform in concert and record albums.

In concert, he was assisted by two of his children, who helped him go through the tunes, acting as almost human teleprompters for him, to keep him on line with his music.

But now, it has reached a point that he can't do that anymore.

He is releasing a new album, which I read will be a "reimagining" of his hits, like "Wichita Lineman" and "Galveston."

If I read correctly, he will simply be singing, not playing, on this LP.

Campbell was sort of the touchstone between crossover country/pop music in the 1960s. Along with artists like Michael Nesmith and, to a certain extent, Ray Charles, he helped to bring country music to a wider audience, both with his hit records and his TV show.

Today's country artists would not be where they are today without performers like Campbell.

But he was so much more than that.

He was a session guitarist who played on dozens of rock and pop hits, including those registered by the Beach Boys, Monkees and so many others.

Why he is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is anyone's guess.

But back to the disease that is robbing him of his abilities.

I know all too well about it. My grandmother had it.

She went from an effervescent, very proud woman to someone who barely knew her own name in the course of just a couple of months.

The last time I ever saw her, she was in a nursing home, and I went there to visit with my father--her son--and my son, who was just a baby at the time.

She had no idea who my father was, although she did know me for some reason. She asked me, "Who is that man with you?"

She also asked me why I was holding a baby.

Just a few months earlier, she helped to put her great grandchild to sleep as she cradled him in her arms.

After that visit, my father told me, "If I ever get to that point, I give you permission to shoot me," and he was not kidding.

She died just a few weeks later, and let me tell you, it was what is referred to in Yiddish as a "mitzvah," or a blessing.

No one should have to live like that. It is truly a living death.

There have been advances in research on the disease, but it still exists, and there is no cure.

And like all diseases, it does not discriminate. It can hit any one of us.

Campbell is going through that now, and it has been many months leading up to this point.

By the time his album comes out, he just many not even know that he actually did it, that he was on it.

I hope it does not get to that point, but it just might.

Alzheimer's is a horrible disease, and I personally wish him well.

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