Glen Campbell Documentary “I’ll Be Me” Opens at Bloor Hot Docs

Ashley Campbell and Glen Campbell
Ashley Campbell and Glen Campbell

By Lori Bosworth

He had several chart toppers in the late 60s and 70s including “Gentle On My Mind,” “Wichita Lineman,” “By The Time I Get To Phoenix,” “Galveston,” and “Rhinestone Cowboy,” and was an in-demand session player due to his exceptional guitar playing skills. When Glen Campbell announced in 2011 that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, many of his fans were shocked to hear that he was hitting the road one last time to showcase his final album, Ghost On The Canvas. The documentary, Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, which opens at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema on April 3, 2015, follows Campbell’s 100-plus city tour where he is supported by his wife, Kim, and their three children, who are part of his back-up band.

Ashley Campbell and Glen Campbell
Ashley Campbell and Glen Campbell in Glen Campbell “I’ll Be Me”

Those who have had family or friends touched by Alzheimer’s Disease are familiar with the first signs of dementia, which can be as inocuous as forgetting what someone told them or where they put something. Campbell while on tour exhibits extreme memory loss: he doesn’t remember what day it is, where he is, or the names of his children. In fact, he must use a teleprompter on stage in order to sing his well-known songs. What is remarkable is Campbell’s astute memory of his music. He is able to play long guitar rifts, executed almost perfectly, and his voice is remarkably strong. Campbell’s doctors maintain that he was maintaining intellectual behaviour more than other people at a similar stage of Alzheimer’s because he was doing what he loved to do: perform live.

Although glimpses into Campbell’s struggles with daily living are sad to watch, it is the musician’s light-hearted humour that uplifts this documentary from tearjerker to triumph. It’s also touching to watch Campbell’s family rally around him and provide him with loving support.

Glen Campbell in Glen Campbell I'll Be Me
Glen Campbell in Glen Campbell I’ll Be Me

The documentary also features footage of Campbell the family man (he was married four times), highlights of Campbell’s career, as well as commentary on his musical legacy from several artists including Bruce Springsteen, Sheryl Crow, Blake Shelton, Keith Urban, The Edge, Brad Paisley, Steve Martin and Vince Gill.

Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me opens at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 506 Bloor Street West on April 3, 2015. Tickets are $9.73 and can be purchased online.