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Daddy, Don’t You Worry – I’ll Do the Remembering

Daddy, Don’t You Worry – I’ll Do the Remembering
Daddy, Don’t You Worry – I’ll Do the Remembering
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“I needed to learn to love every new version of my dad that Alzheimer’s brought along. You have to take the journey with him and be with him where he is in that journey, every day.” – Ashley Campbell


Ashley Campbell is the daughter of the late, great Glen Campbell, renowned singer, songwriter and guitarist. Glen passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s disease in 2017, leaving behind a legacy of love, music and a hope for a world without Alzheimer’s. Following in her father’s footsteps, Ashley is an accomplished country singer and songwriter … with her own stories to tell.

We recognized something was strange when my dad started repeating himself. Then one day he asked where his golf clubs were and was told they were in the garage. “What’s a garage?” We knew something was very wrong.

When I graduated from college in 2009, my dad suggested I play banjo on his tour. I played in his band for the next three years and through his Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 2011. Every day was different. There would be times when I wondered if he would be able to speak in complete sentences. Then there would be other nights when he’d be the amazing Glen Campbell everyone knew and loved.

I didn’t even realize my dad’s impact on the world of music until I was an adult myself. I grew up in Phoenix, away from the spotlight, so I was never known as “Glen Campbell’s kid.” My friends growing up didn’t know “Wichita Lineman” and to me, it was just what my dad sang at his concerts. It was dad’s job. Then as I got older and began playing guitar and banjo, I started watching all of these videos of my dad playing – and became a total superfan.

Being on stage and listening to or playing music releases dopamine – it really does make you happy. I believe that playing music helped my dad stay sharp, and he kept performing and doing what he loved. There were definitely songs that stuck with him longest, even when he couldn’t remember anything else. As the disease progressed, any time he would pick up an instrument, he would play the same couple of songs like “Thing Called Love” or “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” “Don’t Think Twice” will always mean a lot to me because it is one of the few songs my dad actually was able to sit down and teach me how to play it like he played it. I learned a lot more by just watching him every night.

As the disease progressed, I noticed he would usually stick to playing the same fabulous guitar solo on “Wichita Lineman” but one night – far along into his final “Goodbye Tour" – he lost his place on the fret board. I watched him struggle to start the solo for just one second, then his eyes lit up and he improvised an incredibly beautiful guitar solo. It was awesome. His brain was still creating, and he continued to amaze and inspire me.

One of the first songs I penned and recorded is called “Remembering.” It’s about my father and featured in the documentary about him, “I’ll Be Me”:

“Four years old running up the stairs to your bed
Thunder rolls and I pull the covers over my head
You say it's just a storm, enjoy the show
You take me to the window and you show me that it's beautiful
Never had to ask you to sing for me, it's just the way you put me at ease

Bone for bone we are the same
Bones get tired and they can't carry all the weight
We can talk until you can't even remember my name
Daddy don't you worry, I'll do the remembering

First guitar and I just wasn't getting it right
You showed me how to play it, said it doesn't happen overnight
In a couple years I come home and show you how I play "Blackbird"
Though I miss a couple notes you still say that it was the best you ever heard

Never had to ask you to smile for me, it's just the way you put me at ease
Bone for bone we are the same
Bones get tired and they can't carry all the weight
We can talk until you can't even remember my name
Daddy don't you worry, I'll do the remembering
Daddy don't you worry, I'll do the remembering

Now I have to ask you to sing for me
And I have to show you the words to sing
You're standing right in front of me and slipping away

Bone for bone we are the same
Bones get tired and they can't carry all the weight
We can talk until you can't even remember my name
Daddy don't you worry, I'll do the remembering
Daddy don't you worry, I'll do the remembering”
 

In 2017, I gave testimony on Capitol Hill to help secure funding and to stress the importance of the implementation of the National Alzheimer’s Plan. My dad was seated beside me. I talked about how, in my family, music was always a part of my home, and we were still playing. “A person’s life is comprised of memories, and this is exactly what this disease takes away – like the memories of playing banjo while my dad played guitar. Now when I play banjo with my dad, it’s getting harder for him to follow along. And it’s getting harder for him to recall my name.”

We need to find a cure. So much pain should not exist in the world. It’s happening to millions and millions of families all over the world. Know that you’re not alone. You can ask for help. You can tell your story. You don’t have to hide. I tell mine for my dad. I love you, Daddy. I miss you so much.  

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