Thursday, January 12, 2012


“Like a Rhinestone Cowboy…”

The well-known lyric rang out over the warm late August evening as we all stood, hundreds of us, listening to Glen Campbell perform the kick-off to his Farewell Tour. The 2011 Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto was the beginning of his final international tour, one that will see him perform dozens of dates throughout several countries.

Earlier in 2011 Campbell announced to the world that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Although otherwise in good health, his memory is fading, which is a terrible thing to happen to anyone, including folks who make their living remembering lyrics.

When you watch Glen Campbell pick a guitar you know you’re seeing a master at work. Every note placed exactly right, his hands fly across the fret board at lightning speed with an ease and grace that almost makes the instrument an extension of his body.

50 years in show business and over 70 albums have seen him take 74 trips up the charts, with 27 songs hitting the Top 10. Add in the hundreds of songs on which he performed early in his career as a session musician (everything from “Tequila” to “The Unicorn”) and toss in his time touring as a member of the Beach Boys, and his talent has been a major part of the soundtrack of the past half-century.

I recall watching “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour” on television, listening to his countless records, and seeing him in the original film version of “True Grit.” During his concert he joked that it was probably his acting skills that helped win the Best Actor Oscar for John Wayne.

I noticed the other day that Tommy Hunter is also on a Farewell Tour. Canada’s Country Gentleman is taking one last opportunity to tour the country and perform for the thousands of people who love and remember his music.

What a great idea. Farewell Tours offer the chance to share memories one more time with people who love you. It doesn’t necessarily have to suggest that you’re getting ready to leave anytime soon. I mean, how many times did Frank Sinatra retire?

Everyone dreams about leaving behind a legacy, something for which they’ll be remembered long after they’re gone. Artists are in a great position for this sort of thing, as the act of producing a painting, song, poem or novel automatically means you’ve given a small piece of yourself over to immortality. Whether anyone enjoys what you’ve left behind is, of course, another matter altogether.

We have a natural need to feel that we’ve left that footprint, something that shouts to the world, “I was here. I made a difference.” Most of us barrel thorough our lives, never thinking of keeping a record of who we are or what we did. But nothing is more important, or easier, than leaving a legacy.

One example we have in Canada is an amazing effort called The Memory Project ( The goal of this project is to create a record of Canada’s participation in WWII and the Korean War, as seen through the eyes of thousands of veterans. If you are a vet, or know one who hasn’t heard about this endeavor, I urge you to check it out and share your memories.

For the rest of us who didn’t fight Hitler, this website can be an inspiration. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all started writing down our memories, our personal histories, our unique recollections of events we’ve lived and people we’ve known? If writing is too difficult turn on a recorder or video camera and recount your stories in your own words. This way our personal histories won’t be left to others to interpret, because only we can relate our own story first-hand.

The stories don’t have to be amazing; they don’t have to be about curing diseases or ending wars. Just share the simple tales, the funny anecdotes and family histories.

Anyone who has ever lost a loved one knows the feeling of wishing we could have just one more conversation together. Leaving behind our unique lives in our own words is the greatest gift we can offer.

Glen Campbell knows his memory is fading, so he’s making the gargantuan effort of touring one last time, to share his music with his fans. Tommy Hunter has decided it’s time to hang up his guitar but also wants one more opportunity to perform for his audience. Most of us don’t have the knowledge of when we’re going to leave this world, which makes it all the more important to tell our own story while we can.

This could be a good New Year’s resolution, to take the time to write or record the story of your life so far. Think of it as your own Memory Project because, let’s face it, none of us wants to think that we’re taking a Farewell Tour anytime soon.

And take inspiration from the words Tommy Hunter used each week for almost three decades to close his show, “And be the Good Lord willing, we’ll see you again real soon.”