How Glen Campbell and Tanya Tucker’s lover’s quarrel killed a hit song

In this Feb. 15, 1979 file photo, country singers Glen Campbell, left, and Tanya Tucker, engaged to one another, are shown at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.
In this Feb. 15, 1979 file photo, country singers Glen Campbell, left, and Tanya Tucker, engaged to one another, are shown at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. AP

Singer Glen Campbell, who died this week, recorded a string of famous songs. But he could have had one more monster hit, says well-known songwriter Steve Dorff in his soon-to-be-published autobiography.

Back in 1981 the songwriter and Marty Panzer penned a song called “Through the Years,” a romantic ballad about a long relationship. Yes, the Kenny Rogers song.

Dorff writes in “I Wrote that One, Too …” that Campbell had first dibs on the song, but disliked it and would not listen to it past the first chorus.

Dorff said it all began when Campbell’s people asked him for a song that Campbell could sing on a Bob Hope Special on NBC.

Dorff thought his brand-new song, “Through the Years,” would be fitting. Dorff also wrote, “I Just Fall in Love Again” for Anne Murray, “Any Which Way but Loose,” for Eddie Rabbitt and “As Long As We've Got Each Other” (the theme from the TV show “Growing Pains”).

Campbell agreed to have him come to his house in the Hollywood Hills to perform the song on his piano.

And here’s where the songwriter said that timing is everything — even when you turn down a hit song.

Dorff said he arrived at Campbell’s house one morning to the sounds of yelling and screaming inside. At the time, Campbell was having a tabloid-worthy affair with country singer Tanya Tucker, who was 22 years his junior.


“After ringing the doorbell three to four times, I was about to turn and just get the hell out of there when the door opened, and there was Glen Campbell looking quite flustered and disheveled,” Dorff writes in his book, co-authored with Colette Freedman and set for release in November from Backbeat Books ($29.99).

“Is this not a good time?” Dorff asked Campbell.

“Just as I asked, a hairdryer came flying across the doorway. I dodged it just in time not to get brained. Apparently, my arrival coincided with the ending of a lovers’ quarrel between Glen and Tanya. As I entered the house, I realized that it possibly wasn’t the best time to be playing a quintessential love song about long-lasting commitment,” he writes.

Dorff says the distracted Campbell brusquely ushered him to a piano, where he began to play “Through the Years” for the famous singer.

“Glen stopped me in the middle of the first chorus and told me the song wasn’t right for him and escorted me out the door,” Dorff writes.

Soon after, singers Rogers, and also Lionel Richie, independently heard a demo tape of the song, fell in love with it and fought over recording it, Dorff writes.

Rogers won, and Richie became the song’s producer for Rogers’ album “Share Your Love.”

And Campbell, who at the time had not had a hit since 1977’s “Southern Nights,” never had another song reach the Top 40.


“Through the Years” reached No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1982, remaining in the Top 40 for 11 weeks. It also went to No. 1 on the adult contemporary chart.

Rogers describes “Through the Years” as career-defining. It’s often the theme song for couples who are celebrating long-time, loving marriages — something Campbell did not experience until his fourth — and final — marriage.