Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me is sad, funny, nostalgic and informative. But mostly, it’s sweet. Glen Campbell and his family show and tell how his Alzheimer’s has affected each of them.
As Keith Urban, one of many fellow musicians who offer comments, points out, much of our lives consist of memories. And when memory goes, a large part of our existence goes. Thankfully, for Glen Campbell, his abilities to play guitar and sing remain intact, although he cannot remember the words to his songs.
In I’ll Be Me, Glen and his wife Kim visit doctors at the Mayo Clinic. Results of brain scans are analyzed and explained. Drugs are prescribed and life goes on. For now.
The documentary begins in 2011 when Glen Campbell goes public with his diagnosis. It follows him and his entourage through a farewell tour that includes stops at iconic venues Ryman Auditorium (Nashville) and Carnegie Hall (New York). It’s not easy—not for Glen, nor his sidemen who include three of his kids.
At the Ryman, his teleprompter (with song lyrics) goes out and he is lost until it is restored. The family is concerned when he does the Leno show, but he turns in a successful performance. A tribute medley at the Grammy Awards show in early 2012 goes well. At gigs in late 2012, however, as his abilities decline, he has more difficulties. It’s not hard to respond emotionally to his ordeal.
Among the performers who offer comments about Glen Campbell and/or Alzheimer’s are Jimmy Webb, Brad Paisley, The Edge, Sheryl Crow, Bruce Springsteen, Blake Shelton and Kathy Mattea.
Most of the performances in the film from his farewell tour range from good to stellar. Most of his hits plus a few new songs are presented. Other highlights include a tour bus duet with daughter Ashley on Hank Williams’ Lovesick Blues, several clips from Campbell’s TV career and home movies and videos from all stages of his life.
For baby boomers and some Gen-Xers, Campbell has been prominent showbiz figure for half a century, thanks to a string of pop-country hits and a weekly TV show. Performances in Vegas and Branson kept him working long after the hits stopped coming.
It was brave for Glen and his wife and family to make this film and show how Alzheimer’s affects an individual, as well as caregivers and other loved ones. Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me brought tears to my eyes several times during its 1:44 or so run time. But it also made me appreciate the body of entertainment that Glen Campbell has delivered during his lifetime, especially these last concerts. I’m sad about what’s next, but happy that these performances were documented.