For Glen Campbell and others with Alzheimer’s, musical memory is often the last to go

Music therapy is one of the many tools we use at Elderhaven Adult Day Health Centers, for this exact reason!


For Glen Campbell and others with Alzheimer’s, musical memory is often the last to go

It was about eight years ago, when Ashley Campbell was in high school, that she first noticed the memory problems of her famous father.

She was watching “Lord of the Rings” at home with friends when Glen Campbell walked in. “What are you watching?” he asked. “Lord of the Rings, dad,” she answered. A couple of minutes later, he came back in the room and asked the same question. Then, he did it a third time.

As she entered college, she noticed her dad’s memory was getting worse. “He started getting very dependent on my mom for everyday things, asking her questions about things he should know. He’d be in the house and say, ’Where’s the bathroom? Where’s my closet?’ ”

Knowing that Mr. Campbell’s dementia has been advancing for so long, it is remarkable that he is still able to perform music night after night as part of his current “Goodbye Tour,” from old favorites such as “Wichita Lineman” and “Rhinestone Cowboy” to newer pieces such as “Ghost on the Canvas” and “Nothing But the Whole Wide World.”

Mr. Campbell, 75, announced his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease last year and then began the tour that will come to Pittsburgh tonight at the Byham Theater, Downtown. Ashley Campbell has a close-up view because she and her two brothers make up Mr. Campbell’s backup band and can watch him both on- and offstage.

“It’s been wonderful to spend so much time with my dad,” she said in an interview last week. “It’s been such a blessing to me, because he was out on the road a lot when I was growing up. But since he is losing his memories, there is also something very emotional about that.”

She has been able to see firsthand how much stronger his memory for songs is than many of his other recollections, and it makes sense to her.

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