Country star Glen Campbell dies at 81 - KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: newswest9.com |

Country star Glen Campbell dies at 81

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Country star Glen Campbell performing in 1987. (Source: AP Photo) Country star Glen Campbell performing in 1987. (Source: AP Photo)

(RNN) - Glen Campbell, who came from a sharecropping family and rose to country music royalty, has died. 

"It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved husband, father, grandfather, and legendary singer and guitarist, Glen Travis Campbell, at the age of 81, following his long and courageous battle with Alzheimer's disease," a statement on his website, GlenCampbell.com, said.

Campbell was the original country crossover musician, with hits like Rhinestone Cowboy and By the Time I Get to Phoenix reaching both country and pop charts.

He charted 81 songs and sold more than 45 million albums during his career.

Born in Arkansas, Campbell picked up a guitar at age 4 and dropped out of school at 16 to play full time.

He traveled to New Mexico, where he would marry, have a daughter and divorce.

Campbell would later remarry and head to California, where he became a session player, cranking out guitar parts in recording studios in Los Angeles.

Campbell signed a record deal with Capitol Records in 1962, but was on the verge of being dropped from the label by 1966.

Within three years, he would be one of the biggest stars in music.

In 1967, he recorded Gentle on My Mind. It proved to be his breakout hit and Campbell won two Grammys for the song.

He followed it up with another two-time Grammy winner By the Time I Get to Phoenix and in 1968, the hit Wichita Lineman.

His popularity soaring, Campbell would outsell the Beatles in 1969.

But it was Rhinestone Cowboy that became his signature hit, charting on both the pop and country charts in 1975.

Campbell was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005.

During his career, Campbell also did some acting, appearing in True Grit with John Wayne in 1969. He also hosted the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, a variety show on CBS from 1969-1972.

Diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2011, Campbell went on one final tour, titled the Glen Campbell Goodbye Tour.

In 2012, Campbell received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

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