Glen Campbell
By: Devin McKinney | Categories: HiLo Heroes

Glen Campbell

Some people’s GLEN CAMPBELL (born 1938) is the one who sang “Rhinestone Cowboy.” Mine is the one who sang anonymous lead on the Sagittarius single “My World Fell Down”; who made Gentle on My Mind, a flawless construction of rural humor and Orbisonian agony that is also a concept album on the theme of manhood; and who at his 1966–70 best was a vocalist of genius. Rich and sure as a baritone, Glen was thin in the middle and strained at the upper register. But on material that mattered to him, he was also stunningly passionate, full of emotional aspiration, and with producer Al De Lory he made love songs into mountain climbs. “You’re My World,” “Crying,” “It’s Only Make Believe” and others lead the singer upward and inward at once, each stanza raising stakes on the last, each successive climax depositing him at a new plateau of wanting and not having. Glen fights like hell to stay on top of the song, give his emotions primacy over a keening, thrusting noise. The climax arrives — the singer will either plunge into the void or vanquish the summit — and at that moment he finds in himself a note to break the heart and explode the spirit. It is a reach for beauty to the exclusion of anything else in the world — to the exclusion of the world itself — and what more we could ask of a pop record I can’t imagine.

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On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Charles Mingus, Aaron Spelling, Giorgio Agamben, John Waters, Charlotte Rae, Vladimir Nabokov.

READ MORE about members of the Anti-Anti-Utopian Generation (1934-43).

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Devin McKinney is author of Magic Circles: The Beatles in Dream and History and most recently, The Man Who Saw a Ghost: The Life and Work of Henry Fonda.