Lifetime Achievement Award: Glen Campbell

GRAMMY-nominated singer/songwriter Chris Isaak pays tribute to one of country music's finest
  • Photo: Gary Gershoff/
    Chris Isaak
  • Photo: Mark Sullivan/
    Glen Campbell
February 11, 2012 -- 3:13 pm PST
By Chris Isaak /

I have had the privilege of working with Glen Campbell. He probably won't remember me. Not that his memory is that bad, but how can a guy be expected to remember everything and everybody? If you look up Glen on Wikipedia it just says "played on everything and worked with everybody." He would have such an easy time making small talk anywhere he went just by turning on the radio in the background. "Oh, yeah…I love this song. I played on it...oh, on this one too...." It is a startling but true scientific fact that the only man-made things that can be seen from outer space are the Great Wall of China and Glen Campbell's résumé. It is impressive and endless. He is the guy that had the perfect hair and the perfect smile and the impossibly perfect voice...and then he played guitar, not just a little but a lot. He is also the guy who worked his way through clubs and gigs and practice to make it all the way to the top. And he started in a little town out of the way of the star-making machines: Delight, Ark. He harmonized with his brothers and sisters after the day's work. They didn't have electricity so there wasn't much to do after dark. Then he got a guitar and found his ticket out.

He has a body of work that would be impressive for 10 men. There's Glen Campbell the guitar slinger and the songs that he cut as part of the famous "Wrecking Crew" (no wonder all those bands in the '60s sounded like they could really play). And then the other part of his career as a singing star with an incredible voice that cut through pop songs such as "Wichita Lineman" and "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" like a bell. And the TV show that brought him to an even bigger audience. And the movies (Glen Campbell and John Wayne in True Grit). And the live shows….

And at a time when most mere mortals would be tanning by the pool, he still delivers. I was amazed to hear him hit every one of those crazy high notes live when he was taping a TV interview for my show. They are high and held, and he nails them every time. I guess that's what comes from growing up without pitch correction. He has had his battles and the great thing about great men is that the battles just prove their greatness. He has been in and out of style but never lost his talent, his voice, his calling. The minute he starts to sing, the technicians, the makeup artist and the other people in the room all shut up and stand and stare and soak it in. It's a rare bird. A crazy amount of talent all in one man. And when he opens his mouth and picks up that guitar, everyone in the room knows it. He can do it all. And he has. So if Glen forgets a detail here or there, who wouldn't?

Singing star; star of stage, screen and television; a guy who traveled all over the world from Delight and kept right on going. And going.... Did I mention he plays bagpipes?

A two-time GRAMMY nominee, Chris Isaak contributed vocals to "In My Arms" on Glen Campbell's 2011 album, Ghost On The Canvas, and interviewed Campbell for his 2009 Biography channel show, "The Chris Isaak Hour." Isaak's most recent album is Behind The Sun, a tribute to Sun Records.

In addition to the GRAMMY Awards, The Recording Academy presents Special Merit Awards recognizing contributions of significance to the recording field, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, Trustees Award and Technical GRAMMY Award. Each year, The Academy invites friends and colleagues of Special Merit Awards recipients to pay tribute to the honorees' career accomplishments, while also adding colorful anecdotes and personal accounts. In the days leading up to the 54th GRAMMY Awards, will present the tributes to the 2012 Special Merit Awards recipients.

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