Written by Lee Allen. 1 March 2016.
The reason for all human activity is to gain a memory. This grants you something that the brain should hope to keep forever. Alzheimer’s is a disease that causes those memories and other brain functions to whittle away. Unfortunately, this form of dementia (memory and intellectual loss) has struck Country Music Hall of Famer and 1968’s Entertainer of the Year, Glen Campbell. Campbell essentially gives his wife one last testament of his love in the ballad, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You.” Written by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond, the song contains a simple chorus, and even simpler verses which both emphasize his state at the time of the composition. Although the lyrics seem so effortless and nearly amateur, the meaning is what gives this track such a vulnerable, tear jerking edge to it.
In a time where the world was more concerned with Ebola, the Malaysian Airline missing, and the rise of ISIS, the issue of Alzheimer’s disease, which affects over 5 million people in the United States alone, was not receiving adequate attention. One in nine Americans over 65 has Alzheimer’s, meaning a lot of forgotten memories.
The world had also forgotten about Glen Campbell, being that his fame was in the 20th century. From the start, signing to Capitol Records in 1962, Campbell instilled his legacy as a country music legend. He is held accountable for twenty-one Top 40 hits, and was a huge stepping stone in the country music crossover toward a more pop sound. His early success is the reason why “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” can even exist.
The song appears on a Netflix documentary about Campbell’s goodbye tour and personal battle called Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me. The film itself details his ongoing battle with Alzheimer’s; it was basically written to raise awareness for the disease. It offers a look into his disease, and can make any fan or non-fan of his tremble at the lips. The New York Times reviews the film, stating “the sight of Glen Campbell struggling as a teleprompter feeds him the lyrics to songs everyone in his audience knows by heart is all that is needed to put across what’s at stake.” Every viewer surely recognizes this scene as his or her own worst nightmare—being seen as vulnerable in front of an audience.
He started the tour and documentary in 2011, the same year he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Doctors had instructed him to stop playing shows, leave the guitar on its stand, and begin to cope with his disease. Campbell showed tremendous amounts of courage and passion, deciding to tour for an unexpected year and a half. The film highlights the bond between Glen and his wife, Kim, and the struggles that Alzheimer’s puts them through. Of course his family is involved as well, with his children making multiple appearances, showing them playing on stage with their father, interviews, and making the trip with him. Aside from giving his own story, as told by Kim for a majority of the film, the documentary was also created to raise awareness for the impact Alzheimer’s has on a person. By displaying some of Campbell’s worst moments on a screen for millions of viewers, people began to realize the effects of Alzheimer’s, especially by showcasing it on one of the most beloved music stars to ever appear.
The track was actually created on that tour when the producer Julian Raymond spoke with Campbell, who had had a long day of people asking him about Alzheimer’s. Surprisingly at the start of his tour, he went public with his diagnosis, and let his audience go crazy in panic over their beloved idol. Raymond, the co-writer, recommended the song after this inspiring conversation with Glen, in which Campbell said, “I don’t know what everyone’s worried about. It’s not like I’m going to miss anyone, anyway.” Heartbreaking to hear, and it is shown in the song. It took one day and four takes to make this song, speaking a lot to how hard it was for Campbell to function with this disease. The vocals on the track remind the listener that he is speaking the truth (no matter how worn he sounds). The lyrics being as simple as they are truly give a glimpse of how delicate his mind is today. They bring light to the simple yet terrible life brought upon someone by Alzheimer’s. While the lyrics could be written without much of a vocabulary, they are tailored specifically to his wife. Glen boasts to the world that he’s “never gonna hold you like I did,” or that “you’re the last person I will love,” both of which can unmistakably be directed toward Kim. When asked about how the song resonates with her she said she knew it was about her, and she takes it as a love song. For a wife to be told through song that he “selfishly” won’t miss you is hard to take in. He won’t miss her at all, but she’ll sure miss the hell out of him! Just like in movies such as 50 First Dates, The Vow, The Butterfly Effect, Dory in Finding Nemo, or even Alan from the Hangover…Glen Campbell simply can’t (and won’t) remember his past. Only problem is, those people are actors. This is his real life.
When listening to this song, it is obvious that the artist is not likely performing any concerts where he would break a guitar on the ground at the end. The easy, smooth sound of his voice brings focus to his meaning of the words. Raymond even said, “I knew we couldn’t do something like ‘Witchita Lineman’ that had complicated key changes or bigger-range stuff.” Glen Campbell just didn’t have it in him anymore. This song represents the end of a chapter of life. His life. And how much one disease has taken it and crushed it. It’s focused around the disease, and actually is a form of advocacy for Alzheimer’s awareness. The sound of the song is almost lazy or stagnant, with seemingly minimal effort. The focal instrument is piano, which sets a slow pace from the start, along with a choral arrangement like the ones that were used in the 1960’s, and a slight use of guitar and drums. Every tool combines to create a very light tone, one that’s plainness can be understood due to the disease. Raising such awareness and importance, the song won the 2015 Grammy for Best Country Song. The reason for it’s success was because people realized the meaning of this song, and how hard it was for Campbell, who had struggled with Alzheimer’s for three years, to produce this song. A person under the YouTube alias of Ed-gar T. Poee left a comment on this song saying “Glen Campbell: The thing that always came to mind when I listen to him is …effortless talent… (I know there is a lot of hard work behind it) but, wow… seems so effortless …highest compliment I can give, really…” Most of the comments were thanking him or displaying sadness, because this song not only marked the end of his career, but also a termination his relationship with his wife and family. There could be an upside to creating the song, however. Doctors and his wife have stated many times that music helps his brain remember things, and that he can even remember some of the licks he used to do on guitar. It doesn’t work wonders, though. When asked if the music does as good a job as the medicine, his response was “I don’t, I haven’t had anything in quite a while. Any of these things, I mean. Just great, I’m sure glad.” Such a horrendous response to such an easy question, and the meaning of this song is only heightened with events like this. The quality of life stricken by Alzheimer’s is no piece of cake. He is one of millions who suffer, but luckily he was able to do something about it. With this song, Campbell has joined Kathy Mattea’s “Where’ve You Been,” by making a Grammy winning Best Country Song about Alzheimer’s. There’s no end to how much the power of music can have on an audience, and shows reason as to why these songs (and other songs like this) were written…to raise awareness for a disease that should not be forgotten or overlooked.
In 2011, Glen Campbell was quoted for asking the question “Why did I come into this room?” His wife Kim had struggled with his abnormal questions such as “where’s the garage?” for a short period of time, but had brushed it off since he still whaled guitar and sang his songs. He received the diagnosis in June of that year, age 75. This was not the Glen Campbell that became so famous many years ago. He hardly remembers that version of himself. “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” deciphers his hardest goodbye, and most triumphant realization…that he must let his wife and children know that he should miss them, but he will not.
Oscars 2015: The Story Behind Glen Campbell’s ‘I’m Not Gonna Miss You’
Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me. Dir. James Keach. Perf. Glen Campbell, Kim Campbell. PCH Films, 2014. Documentary.
“Glen Campbell Biography.” com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2016. <http://www.biography.com/people/glen-campbell-9542426>.
“Glen Campbell – I’m Not Gonna Miss You.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8TsAh-zYFI>.
Genzlinger, Neil. “Anything but Gentle on His Mind.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 23 Oct. 2014. Web. 25 Feb. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/24/movies/glen-campbell-ill-be-me-a-final-tour-with-alzheimers.html?_r=0>.
McLean, Craig. “Glen Campbell on Music, Memories and Saying Goodbye to Life on the Road.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 13 Aug. 2011. Web. 25 Feb. 2016. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/8695036/Glen-Campbell-on-music-memories-and-saying-goodbye-to-life-on-the-road.html>.
Alzheimer’s & Dementia3 (2015): 332-84. Alzheimer’s Association, 2015. Web. 29 Feb. 2016. <https://www.alz.org/facts/downloads/facts_figures_2015.pdf>.