In a rage, Glen Campbell stalked his living room hurling verbal abuse. “May my mother rot in hell!” the famed singer “screamed at the top of his lungs,” recalls his widow Kim Campbell, who hid behind a couch recording the episode.
Glen’s warm tenor voice and affable charm made him one of the biggest stars of the 1960s, but that wholesome image belied a man in deep denial about his alcoholism. “It was a mix of extreme highs and extreme lows,” Kim exclusively tells Closer of their 34-year union. In her new book, Gentle on My Mind: In Sickness and in Health With Glen Campbell, she recounts Glen’s battles with addiction and Alzheimer’s disease, and how faith and family helped him become a better man.
On their first date in 1981, Kim noted a red flag when Glen became sloppy drunk. “But when he wasn’t drinking, he was the nicest man you’d ever met,” says the former dancer, who became Glen’s fourth wife in 1982. “He was generous, kind, funny, smart and entertaining.” However, when Glen drank, he unleashed a monster. “He never got physical, but he’d get very angry and verbally abusive.” Kim almost left Glen after he drunkenly pulled a gun on her shortly after the birth of their first son.
In desperation, she staged an intervention. “Glen had forbidden me from talking about his drinking with anyone,” says Kim, who went against his wishes and enlisted Gene Autry, a hero of Glen’s, to reason with him. She also played the recordings she secretly made of Glen’s drunken tirades for him when he was sober. “When he heard himself he knew that was not the man he was supposed to be,” Kim says. “Those little things helped break him out of denial.”
Glen achieved sobriety in 1987 and became a devout Baptist. “He was a very good father,” recalls Kim, adding that later-in-life parenthood agreed with the star, who sired eight children during four marriages. “[Earlier] he was so busy with the fame, touring and his TV show,” Kim says. “He always regretted not being able to spend more time with his other children and wanted to make up for it. He attended all of our kids’ T-ball practices and choir recitals.”
In their happiest days, the family split their time between Phoenix and Branson, Mo., where the singer opened up the Glen Campbell Goodtime Theatre in 1994. “We’d go there for seven weeks at a time,” Kim says. “I’d take the kids out of school and homeschool them so we always kept our family together.”
Although Glen relapsed in 2003 after 15 years of sobriety, their life was primarily sweet. “We had family meals and laughed. He loved to tells jokes,” Kim says, admitting that she “didn’t know what to make of it” when Glen’s behavior began to change. “He was getting a little depressed, having anxiety attacks. He started shadowing me everywhere,” she remembers.
In 2011, the performer was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. “He wasn’t going to let it get him down,” Kim tells Closer. Glen continued to play music and entertain for as long as he could. His last concert tour before he passed away in 2017 at the age of 81 was captured in the documentary I’ll Be Me. “I regret that he got Alzheimer’s,” says Kim, who maintains CareLiving.org as a resource to caregivers. “I think if Glen were here today, he’d still be playing music and still be a great husband and father.”
— Louise A. Barile, with reporting by Amanda Champagne Meadows