Sunday, October 19, 2014

Grow Old Along With Disease - Glen Campbell and John

One of the most depressing songs John Lennon wrote is one of his last. "Grow Old Along With Me," his re-write of Browning, is literally a sad recording. You'd think John could've afforded a top quality portable tape recorder. The existing vocal, souped up to sound like an ELO outtake, is woeful and thin, with what sounds like a battered school auditorium piano.

It's also sad because not long after he made the demo, he was demolished.

John loved New York City. He wanted to live in America, land of the free. America believes in the freedom to bear arms, sell guns to just about anyone, and New York doesn't have a death penalty no matter what the murderer did.

Is it possible to listen to that song and not feel the deep irony of John, 40 years old, NOT growing old with Yoko? With us? Not being around the way Bob Dylan is, or Leonard Cohen, or Elton John or Paul McCartney?

It's a tribute to John that this is one of the most-covered of his comeback era songs. And who is the most prominent performer with a version of it? Glen Campbell, who sang it after his Alzheimer's diagnosis. It's pretty wrenching to hear a guy singing about growing old...when he knows he's also going to grow addled, and his wife could be living with a guy who has no idea who she is, and vice versa.

Flip Wilson once said that the cost of living is going up, and the chance of living's going down.

"Grow Old Along With Me," if you can avoid a bullet, some other act of violence, AIDS, Ebola, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's....

Here in October, Campbell has just released his final recording and video. It's "I'm Not Gonna Miss you." One critic, Ed Masley, reviewed it with many a reference to John Lennon:

"A gospel-flavored piano intro echoing John Lennon's "Isolation" is met by ethereal, Beatlesque harmonies before the country crooner takes the spotlight, candidly addressing what he's going through with "I'm still here but yet I'm gone / I don't play guitar or sing my songs / It never defined who I am / The man who loved you 'til the end." Now addressing his wife, he sings, "You're the last person I will love / You're the last face I will recall / And best of all / I'm not gonna miss you." Then he hits you with the sort of slide guitar part George Harrison might have added to a Lennon record."

Quite so. But the video directed by James Keach is more like Johnny Cash's "Hurt," with clips of the young man and close-ups of the puffy, battered face of a man grown old.

You can find that one on YouTube via Glen's own channel (a few pennies in royalties do go to him for a certain amount of plays). As for the older "Grow Old Along With Me," that's below.

John Lennon cover version by Glen Campbell

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