Still on the Line

March 2, 2012

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Can a song “exist in a world of its own – not just timeless but ultimately outside of modern music”? One of the rare songs that does, the BBC says, is “Wichita Lineman.” I heard the song today for the first time in years and surely felt the same way I did when Glen Campbell‘s rendition of Jimmy Webb‘s evocative lyrics debuted on the radio. That was 1968, the year I graduated from high school. Campbell, making a farewell concert tour at age 75, was interviewed this morning on NPR and discussed what I hadn’t known: Alzheimer’s disease is taking hold. He sounded as if the affliction is pulling him from the present into a timeless world all his own. It must be a fearful place, but Campbell spoke with down-home grace and dignity. Long after he’s gone, perhaps a century from now, someone somewhere will stumble upon Campbell singing “Wichita Lineman” and marvel at the unbearable ache of longing that emanates from this deceivingly simple but haunting line:

And I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time.