It makes perfect sense that “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Galveston,” “Gentle on My Mind” and the like instantly spring to mind for old and new fans. After all, those hits rightfully reside in the great American songbook.
Still, Campbell’s massive discography includes less obvious songs that fully capture an all-time great talent’s versatility and longevity, as exemplified by these eight deep cuts.
“Quits” (bonus track for the 40th anniversary of Rhinestone Cowboy, 1975)
In a post-Sgt. Pepper’s world where artists were celebrated for writing an albums’ worth of original songs, Campbell found sustained success as an interpreter of great songwriters’ works. This Danny O’Keefe cover, unearthed for the 40th anniversary CD release of Rhinestone Cowboy, adds countrypolitan class to folk-rock.
“I Love My Truck” (The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia soundtrack, 1981)
This deep cut from the 1981 Dennis Quaid and Mark Hamill film The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia sounds like the product of outlaw country and the CB radio and trucker song fads. From the sound of things, Campbell could’ve fit in musically at Tompall Glaser’s Hillbilly Central in the ‘70s.
“Highwayman” (Highwayman, 1979)
The title track of Campbell’s Highwayman album later became the signature tune of similarly-named supergroup the Highwaymen. Written by “Wichita Lineman” and “By The Time I Get to Phoenix” writer Jimmy Webb, the song tells of a workman-like spirit that lives on, be it through reincarnation or society’s sustained dependence on the working class. With one vocalist instead of four, more focus is placed on that singular attitude that ties together the highwayman, the sailor, the dam builder and the starship pilot.
“Keep On Smilin’” Featuring Oscar the Grouch (Sesame Country, 1980)
Big Bird once flubbed his attempt to book the grouch singer of “Wichita Trashman,” accidentally booking some human named Glen Campbell as Oscar’s duet partner. It worked out okay for all parties involved, proving Campbell to be a versatile performer with something to offer for the whole family. Campbell went on to take another kid-friendly role as the voice of Chanticleer in the 1991 film Rock-a-Doodle.
READ MORE: Country Star Cameos on Sesame Street
“Cowboy Hall of Fame” (It’s Just a Matter of Time, 1985)
This lesser-known Webb composition celebrates the Old West mythos. It stood as a nice reminder of Campbell’s deep country roots, in between his runs as a crossover pop star and a contemporary Christian vocalist. The album it’s from is vastly underrated, anchored by this forgotten gem and a cover of Marty Robbins’ “Gene Autry, My Hero.”
“She’s Gone, Gone, Gone” (Walkin’ In the Sun, 1990)
Campbell’s final top 10 country hit epitomized his 1960s start. The Harlan Howard pinned song began life as a 1965 Lefty Frizzell hit. A stacked backing band featuring Bela Fleck on banjo helped make Campbell’s spirited version sound like it was fresh off the streets of Bakersfield.
“Who’s Minding the Garden” (Wings of Victory, 1992)
Campbell’s ‘80s and ‘90s output is sprinkled with religious albums, featuring either old-time hymns and county gospel standards or more contemporary Christian rock. Among his more rocking cuts was this heartfelt plea for environmental awareness, spoken through the lens of personal faith. Think of it as Campbell’s version of Alabama’s “Pass It On Down.”
“Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)” (Meet Glen Campbell, 2008)
Even Green Day’s lone prom-appropriate song has an extra touch of class when covered by Campbell. His 60th full-length album features covers of U2, John Lennon, Lou Reed and Tom Petty. It wasn’t a mid-life rock music crisis, a la Pat Boone. Instead, Campbell was simply adding his own spin to pop-accessible songs, as he’d done for over 40 years.