By the Time He Gets to Heaven

 

Before my musical taste shifted to rock, in my teen years, I listened to country and western music as a kid. Johnny Cash was my absolute, all-time favorite, but I also enjoyed hearing folks like Ray Price, Loretta Lynn, Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, Buck Owens, Roger Miller and Tom T. Hall.

And Glen Campbell.

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Glen passed away Tuesday, at the age of 81, after living the last six years with, in my view, the most cruel, insidious affliction to ever befall a person: Alzheimer’s disease.

The thought of my mind slowly and deliberately eroding, eventually leaving me unable to dress myself, feed myself, or remember anyone I’ve ever known and loved, while those loved ones helplessly watch…

Rest in Peace, Glen. Your suffering is over.

Peace and comfort to you, Campbell family. You don’t have to witness it anymore.

 

Glen had the good looks, the mellifluous voice, and the instrumental skills, and he was an immensely popular recording artist, especially in the late 1960’s and ’70’s. He had tremendous crossover success, earning Grammy awards in 1968 in country and pop music. He sold an estimated 45 million records over his career.

(I’m not going to get into the toll his success took on him, personally, because really, there’s no need to do that here. Suffice it to say, he came out the other side of it.)

Above all that, though, was just the joy, the love of performing, that made him a star. You could see it every week in the late 1960’s and early 70’s on his variety TV show, “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.” He put his heart into everything he sang; from the bouncy, infectious “Southern Nights”, to the resolutely optimistic “Rhinestone Cowboy”, to the wistful, apprehensive “Galveston”, to the sunny and upbeat “Try a Little Kindness.”

Then, there are my two personal favorites, both written by Jimmy Webb, one of the best songwriters ever, without a doubt: “Wichita Lineman” (beautifully orchestrated, like most of his hits), and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”, still one of the most sublimely heartbreaking tunes I’ve ever heard.

Even in the face of that merciless monster he battled in his later years, Glen kept on performing, enlisting the help of his sympathetic audience for the words he could no longer remember. He even allowed a camera crew to travel with him on his farewell tour, resulting in the award-winning documentary, “I’ll Be Me.” He was not afraid to make his struggle public, which earned him high praise from former President Bill Clinton, a fellow Arkansas native.

So, if it’s been awhile since you heard you some Glen Campbell, reacquaint yourself with an old friend, and celebrate his life and career. If you’ve never heard of him, take this opportunity to listen to a truly great artist. Even if you’re not into country music, you’ll discover a good song and a good singer transcend all genres.

Adios, Rhinestone Cowboy. Thanks for all the good times, and all the great music.

 

 

Refill on that Large Buttered (urp)

 

Okay, film fans, here are some more favorites of mine:

Big Bad Mama – I saw this movie on my fifteenth birthday. You talk about making an impact…you coulda hung ten hats on me when I walked out of there.

Rocky – I’ve been to only one other movie that had the audience this much into it. We were all cheering for Rocky at the end, and even though he didn’t win the fight, he went the distance, and he had love, and we cheered that.

Halloween – My all-time favorite scare. This was the other movie that had the audience all in. We all SCREAMED at this chick to “Get out of there, HURRY!!!” Why don’t they ever listen?

Airplane! – Unapologetic nonsense from start to finish; I loved it. Steven Stucker, as Johnny, absolutely stole that movie.

Arthur – Sentimental favorite. My wife and I saw this on our first date. The theater we saw it in is long gone. So is the restaurant where we had dinner, and the mall we walked around in until we went to the movie. But we’re still here!

Sophie’s Choice – I can hear my wife exclaiming, “Why?” The only reason I include this one is because it has the distinction of being, by a wide margin, the SADDEST movie I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Unless you’re really, really happy, don’t watch this one.

The Silence of the Lambs – An up-close look at two horrifying personifications of evil. Anthony Hopkins, at his Oscar-winning best. Same for Jodie Foster.

Schindler’s List – This one’s sad, too, but ultimately, a very uplifting story of one man’s compassion in the face of such unspeakable evil. Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece.

Saving Private Ryan – Spielberg’s other masterpiece. World War II as we’d never seen it before. Outstanding cast led by Tom Hanks.

Liar Liar – I love Jim Carrey, and I love him best as this manic lawyer forced to tell the truth for a day. Hysterical!

Jerry Maguire – I’m including this movie for just one scene: Jerry’s “You complete me” declaration of love to his wife. The most romantic scene ever, for my money.

One Hour Photo – Best work Robin Williams ever did, in my opinion. It was like watching an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Positively creepy.

Sling Blade – Outstanding writing, acting and directing, all by Billy Bob Thornton. Mm-hmm.

Brokeback Mountain – Yeah, some folks made a big deal of two cowboys in love, but it was a very heartbreaking story, brilliantly acted by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. After watching this and The Dark Knight, I am convinced that Heath Ledger, were it not for his untimely death, could have ended up being the greatest actor ever; he was that talented.

Citizen Kane – As a noted philosopher once said, “Boring beyond belief.” I did sleep through this one. In 1998 (and again in 2007) the American Film Institute listed this movie as the greatest American film ever made. Shows what they know.

Oh, there’s so many others, but you know what? I’d love to hear from you, now. What are some of your favorites, and why? Let’s get a roundtable going here; this’ll be fun!

Oh, and for those of you who observe, Happy Easter this Sunday!

See you at the movies, as they say.

One Large Buttered, Please

 

It’s occurred to me: one thing I haven’t shared on this blog is my lifelong love of movies.

From the time I saw my first movie at age six, I’ve been a big fan. I appreciate how books allow you to use your imagination more, but it’s more of an investment of time, whereas a movie only demands, on average, a couple of hours.

And, on a huge screen, in a theater with several large speakers, the whole audiovisual experience just overwhelms you. For those couple of hours, you’re totally captivated. You, and an audience of complete strangers, which usually enhances the experience. Together, you laugh, cry, cheer, scream, jump or, in some cases, sleep.

So, here’s a list, in no particular order, of some of my favorites; some that I really enjoyed, or that made an impact on me in some way:

Mary Poppins – First movie I ever saw. (first one I remember seeing, anyway) It was magical; live action and animation played together, and I loved it.

What’s Up, Doc? – Still the funniest movie I’ve ever seen. Barbara Streisand, Ryan O’Neal, the late, great Madeline Kahn, and plenty of slapstick, laugh-til-it-hurts comedy.

Young Frankenstein – Close runner-up for funniest movie. Director Mel Brooks at his hysterical best. The whole cast is hilarious.

The Sting – My all-time favorite. Because it pulled off the neat trick of making the audience members believe they were in on the con, and when they found out at the end they were conned, too, they weren’t mad about it! Slick.

The Godfather, Parts I and II – Part III gets an honorable mention, but it doesn’t approach the quality of these two masterpieces. Even to criminals, family means everything. So many great performances, with Marlon Brando and Al Pacino at the front of the pack.

The Birds – To this day, any time I see several birds congregated together in one spot, I think of this movie. Some images just stay with you.

The Odd Couple – Another great comedy, with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau both owning it. Terrific writing from Neil Simon.

Jaws – Waited over an hour in the hot Texas summer sun to get in to see this movie. Absolutely worth it.

Star Wars – Another long, hot wait. Again, totally worth it. This was completely unlike any outer space movie I’d seen before. The special effects were amazing!

Close Encounters of the Third Kind – Watching that enormous mother ship rising over Devil’s Tower on a big screen, there wasn’t a jaw in the whole theater that wasn’t on the floor.

The Deer Hunter – The most nerve-wracking and, in the end, moving film about the Vietnam war, and its aftermath, I’ve seen. Robert DeNiro and Christopher Walken are incredible. Also, early in her career, a great performance from Meryl Streep.

Platoon – Another Vietnam war movie. You know how, when people walk out of the theater at the conclusion of the movie, you’ll hear them having random discussions – that was great, that sucked, where are we going for dinner, blah, blah, blah?

When I walked out with the crowd at the end of Platoon, I heard…nothing. We all shuffled out like zombies, in complete silence, thoroughly stunned at what we had just witnessed. I’ll never forget that.

 

Well, there’s many more, but I think we’re gonna have to have a sequel, so this doesn’t stretch out forever. So, be on the lookout, and you can turn your cellphones back on, now.