“Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me”

“I’ll Be Me”
Directed by James Keach

GC24-copyI’ve been putting off viewing this documentary for some time and I finally had the time (courage) to do so. It ends up being two docs in one…to an extent. You could say it’s a biopic about someone most of us have a very narrow artistic viewpoint of; Glen “‘Rhinestone Cowboy’, ‘Southern Nights’, Hee Haw, country bumpkin” Campbell. Or you could put it forth as a very real, very powerful presentation showcasing the effects of Alzheimer’s on a man and his family, and how the power of continuing to share a real gift might delay its effects.

As a bio, it’s not very complete. Glen Campbell is one of the great guitar players in our history. Most people don’t know that. He was also a member of the Wrecking Crew. Most people don’t know that. Most people don’t know he subbed in for Brian Wilson on the road, when the Beach Boys needed a stand-in early in their career. And he wrote one of the most beautiful songs ever in “Wichita Lineman”. But, except for a couple comments by talking heads interviewed for the piece, you don’t get to see a whole lot of that, and, given how much television footage exists of his earlier talent, technical wizardry and unassuming persona, it’s a little dismaying. But only a little.

Keach has eschewed these glimpses in to his performances to focus on his familial history, home movies, and deteriorating memories and motor functions. By doing so, “I’ll Be Me” goes one step further than most Alzheimer’s related films. He shows us how that certain skills are hardwired into the brain And thee skills, which are not merely locked in our memory centers, can maintain function longer than any other area. To see him being able to sing perfectly and play beautifully, with controlled emotion, even when he can’t seem to control anything else, is a wonder – and encouraging.

My only real problem with the scope of the film is that it is mentioned again and again how important and therapeutic his connection with the audience and his fans are. Toward that end, it might have been nice to see more of relationship to THAT family throughout. I found myself wanting to see more of the pre-Alzheimer’s Glen Campbell we don’t know…to see more of what the WORLD is losing, not just what he and his family are losing. But maybe Keach assumed we would seek that out ourselves. And so I found myself immediately going to YouTube to view the Campbell I didn’t know existed. And wouldn’t you know, it was even more heartbreaking to witness the “Before” after experiencing the “After.”

But whatever this doc is trying to be, it’s absolutely worth your time. Highly recommended and currently available on Netflix.

Written on 11/8/2015

One thought on ““Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me”

  1. Was lucky enough to catch part of this on cable the other day. The concept of bringing the world into Glen Campbell’s twilight was brave on his part and his loved ones, and yet it was profound how his musical ability seemed to be untouched and able to shine through. The sense I got from the audience was that they wanted to cherish a unique talent and legend. I had a similar experience a couple of years ago when I went to see Gordon Lightfoot perform. He’d lost much of his distinctive power, but to see the man and receive his music from him directly was a moving experience.

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