October 31, 2020

A Life in a Song

By Chaplain Mike

A song has been haunting my thoughts lately. Though recorded a couple of years ago, I have just become familiar with it.

It’s Glen Campbell’s cover of “These Days” by Jackson Browne. I remember the original from the early 70’s, when I was a Browne fan, but this cover is a revelation. In the music video, Campbell reminds me of Johnny Cash in his later days, when his voice and the songs he sang were so full of life experience, regret, maturity, and joy that it made one literally ache with human sympathy.

Amazingly, Browne wrote this song when he was only sixteen years old. In Campbell’s hands, it becomes a jewel of vintage beauty, enhanced by the sepia tones of the video, which contain evocative pictures of his long career in music.

Campbell’s life is the stuff of American dreams and drama. Born in the Depression to a sharecropper and one of twelve children, he got his start when his impoverished daddy somehow scrounged up the money for a $5 Sears and Roebuck guitar. He learned quickly and played publicly as a child, eventually leaving school at age sixteen and heading west to play in bars and roadhouses. Campbell formed a band, moved to L.A. and began writing songs and serving as a sideman to many famous musicians. After he was invited to tour with the Beach Boys as their bassist, he teamed up with Jimmy Webb to record his own records, which proved to be among the greatest hits of the era: “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Wichita Lineman,” for example. He was invited to host the summer edition of the Smothers Brothers Show, and then got his own TV variety program, which made him an international star.

The 70’s and 80’s were not kind to Campbell, as he self-destructed under the influence of alcohol and cocaine addiction. However, he was able to overcome these problems and has testified that God, through faith in Christ, should get the credit for turning his life around.

There is a full lifetime of highs and lows in this song, and it speaks deeply to me.


  1. Beautiful, Chaplain, beautiful. Thank you for the post.
    These days, many of us are coming out of our past of abusive doctrine or being abused by doctrine, and we are so grateful for these days and the role that IM is playing… in our days now.

  2. Don’t confront me with my failures…I had not forgotten them.

    I love that and many of Browne’s songs. “Fountain of Sorrow” is one of my faves as is “Daddy’s Song” and “Every Man” and so many others just speak to me of loss, of regret, of paths taken and not taken.

  3. (fake)Mark says

    I don’t like it. As if Glen Campbell’s alcohol and cocaine addictions aren’t bad enough, Jackson Browne is an environmentalist! Everyone knows environmentalists cannot be fundamentalists until they have renounced the environment; and therefore they have rejected the true and historic faith of Christianity. And to top it all off, I’m pretty sure both Campbell AND Browne are mainline theologians. We can learn nothing from this. Thanks for nothing Chaplain Mike.

  4. Jackson Browne’s mom was my high school English teacher. He was already famous at that point and whenever we wanted to get out of work (every day) we just asked her questions about him. I was a fan of his before I ever liked his music.

  5. Nathan Carpenter says

    I’ve always loved Glen Campbell, but that album “Meet Glen Campbell” is like a G.K. Chesterton book. Better the second time, better yet the third time, and so on.

  6. This is very moving — thanks.

  7. Mike (the other chaplain) says

    Great song and video! Thanks for posting!

  8. Browne was only 16 when he wrote this? Amazing.

    I got “Meet Glen Campbell” a couple of years ago on the recommendation of a friend. It’s a wonderful album. My favorite cuts are his covers of U2’s “All I Want Is You” and John Lennon’s “Grow Old With Me”.