Don't Mind If I Do
October 9, 2014
While talking to programmers this week about The Band Perry's latest single, "Gentle On My Mind," I've discovered two kinds of radio people. 1) Those who remember -- or at least know about -- the original version performed by Glen Campbell, for which he won two Grammy's in 1968 and, 2) Those who thought "Gentle On My Mind" was an entirely new song.
Admittedly, I fall into group #1, having first heard this song on the radio as a kid. Let me further qualify that: A very, very, very young kid. Key word: "very." Think single-digit here.
In addition to being a great song, what makes the legacy of "Gentle On My Mind" all the more impressive -- and an interesting fact as well -- is that when first released in July of 1967, it had a short, four-week run, followed by "Dreams Of the Every Day Housewife" (Which peaked at #3) and "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" (#2). More than a year after it fell off the Billboard Hot 100 and almost a year after "Phoenix," it debuted again, in September of '68, reaching a peak chart position of #39 in November of that year. I bet you thought it peaked higher, eh?
Also, remember I mentioned two Grammy wins for Campbell in '68? He was honored for "Best Country & Western Solo Performance, Male" and "Best C&W Recording" (Quick aside: Yes, it was indeed called "Country & Western" then). But the tune actually racked up four Grammy's, as Songwriter John Hartford was honored for "Best C&W Song" and "Best Folk Performance," the latter for his version of it.
At any rate, "Gentle On My Mind" was part of a quartet of career songs for Campbell at the time -- the other three being "By The Time I Get To Phoenix," "Wichita Lineman" and "Galveston," which made him a big deal in the late '60s.
Campbell's run of chart success propelled him into TV stardom as host of his own weekly variety show, "The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour." Campbell even used "Gentle On My Mind" as the show's theme song. Oh, and he dabbled in movies too, with a role in John Wayne's 1969 Western, "True Grit." All of this mass-media exposure for Campbell occurred within a four-year span.
Additionally, to put Campbell's stardom in context, think Blake Shelton in 2014 -- only bigger. Sure, Blake is the marquee, the centerpiece of "The Voice." But Campbell's show was HIS show. It was called "The GLEN CAMPBELL Good Time Hour." He transcended Country music and became one of the biggest stars of his time, period.
Therefore, I can't listen to this new version of "Gentle On My Mind" without thinking about Campbell and that's not to say I'm holding up The Band Perry's version to his. In fact, Kim Perry's performance doesn't really allow it and I mean that in a good way.
Kim absolutely owns this rendition, making a very wordy set of lyrics easy to follow -- as Campbell did in '68. And the production is well-balanced, too, resembling the original version just enough, yet it still sounds like 2014. I guess what I'm saying is it kinda feels like a nod to the original -- but then again it doesn't. It's a really likeable, listenable version of a nearly 50-year old song. And I think that's part of why the aforementioned group #2 considers the 2014 reboot of "Gentle On My Mind" something new. A traditional song, for sure, but a new one. At the same time, those of us in group #1 can love it, too.
I love when artists zig as we expect them to zag. Who saw this coming from TBP? Not me. I've come to expect uptempo, rockin' songs that skew towards getting even with horrible men from TBP; songs that can be transformed into a live performance extravaganza that may or may not include fiery explosions and choreographed dance moves. Maybe Kim's recent marriage doused that fury, I don't know. But I do know she and her brothers obviously respect traditional Country songs, something which shines on this record.
Therefore, members of groups #1 and #2 and anybody else reading this, I say, play "Gentle On My Mind." Add it on 10/13 and play the living crap out of it for gawd's sake! But while you're at it, let me submit one, little programming suggestion.
(I know, how unlike me, right?)
At least once, play "I'm Not Gonna Miss You," the new song from Glen Campbell alongside the Band Perry's cover of "Gentle."
Ya, I know. Some of you in group #2 will scream, "What? I'm not gonna play ANY song by some 78-year-old!"
Re-think that position and consider the emotional connection you can make with listeners, whether they're 18-34, 18-49, 25-54 or whatever; here's how.
Campbell's "I'm Not Gonna Miss You." is a guaranteed powerful companion piece to the 2014 version of "Gentle On My Mind" that'll resonate with every single one of your listeners. As 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," an accompanying video shows home movies of Campbell through the years.
It's absolutely heart-wrenching.
Yes, "I'm Not Gonna Miss You" will induce tears because as many are aware, in 2011, Campbell publicly announced that he'd been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. He embarked on a farewell tour that year, which included a stop at Nashville's LP Field during the 2012 CMA Music Festival. True, it was difficult to watch Campbell struggle through his own famous music, in spite of onstage support from two of his kids, who were members of his band. But it also displayed tremendous courage, as well as flashes of his once supreme musicianship. Remember, Campbell was part of the legendary group of studio musicians called "The Wrecking Crew" who played on just about every big song of every genre recorded in Los Angeles during the '60s. Among the many people he inspired as a guitar player alone, include Steve Wariner and Keith Urban.
During his farewell tour, Campbell agreed to be the subject of a documentary set to be released on Friday, October 24th, called "I'll Be Me." It chronicles the past three years of his battle, which sadly, appears to be nearing its end. The Band Perry's version of "Gentle On My Mind" is featured on the film's soundtrack.
According to a piece aired on NBC Nightly News earlier this week, Campbell, now in a care facility, is in the sixth of the disease's seven stages. He was unable to speak for the segment, but can somehow still play guitar -- on good days. In his intro to the segment, Nightly News anchor Brian Williams mentioned that in the U.S., someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer's every 67 seconds. I'll let you do the math on that and I'll bet somebody in that statistic is at least related to one of your listeners, no matter their age.
Would it knock your radio station off its axis to play these two songs, back to back? Would the Mscore send people fleeing to another choice or your ratings reeling? Or would it demonstrate that your morning show and your radio station has a heart and a soul?
No to the first two questions and yes to the third, if you thoughtfully package it in a compelling, well-executed segment while creating awareness for a horrible illness touching all of us in one way or another. Not if you share http://www.alz.org/, a great website for information on Alzheimer's. And not if you include the fact that November -- just 21 days away as of this writing -- is National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month.
Yes, I like artists who zig when we expect them to zag. And I love when radio stations do the same thing. Pairing these two songs will create awareness for Alzheimer's in a very timely fashion and reinforce your position as the station that cares. That sentiment will help the Band Perry's version of "Gentle On My Mind" resonate with fans on a different level in addition to their wonderful performance of it. And you just might make new Country fans aware of Glen Campbell and his contribution to this music.