When country music legend Glen Campbell died on Aug. 8, 2017, at age 81, he left behind an illustrious catalog of hits, such as “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “I Wanna Live,” “Wichita Lineman,” and more.
On this day in 1969, Campbell’s song “Galveston” hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, where it stayed entrenched for three weeks.
After Campbell had spent years as an in-demand session vocalist and guitarist, having recorded as part of the legendary session players The Wrecking Crew, and recording with artists including Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys, and Merle Haggard, Campbell broke through with his own first hit in 1967 with “Gentle On My Mind,” which earned Campbell a string of Grammy honors.
In 1969, “Galveston” became Campbell’s third chart-topping Billboard Hot Country Songs hit. The Jimmy Webb-penned track also reached No. 4 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
Released as the United States was entrenched in the Vietnam War, writer Webb originally penned the track as an anti-war song.
“A lot of people are under the impression that it was a patriotic song about the war in Vietnam,” Webb said in a 2010 interview. “It’s always been…about a guy who is caught up in something he doesn’t understand and would rather be somewhere else.”
The song was first released in 1968 by Hawaiian singer Don Ho, who introduced Campbell to the song during an appearance on Campbell’s television show The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.
Webb’s original version, recorded by Ho, features a slower tempo and a verse about a soldier longing to be home with his significant other rather than in a warzone. The second verse in that early version of the song features the lines, Wonder if she could forget me/I’d go home if they would let me/put down this gun and go to Galveston.
Campbell’s rendition of the track includes a key verse change there: I still hear your sea waves crashing/While I watch the cannons flashing/I clean my gun and dream of Galveston.
Campbell’s recording of “Galveston” was one of several crossover pop hits for the star. Between 1967 and 1980, Campbell earned 19 Top 40 pop hits, including “Galveston,” “Country Nights,” and his signature hit “Rhinestone Cowboy.”
Campbell was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005 and earned a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. In 2011, a farewell tour and album were announced following the news that Campbell had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. In 2014, Campbell’s “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” won a Grammy for Best Country Song.