Like A 'Rhinestone Cowboy:' Glen Campbell's Life In One Song

By Rebeka Knott
Singer Glen Campbell performs onstage in July 1974. (Photo by (Photo by Donaldson Collection/Getty Images)

The late Glen Campbell's "Rhinestone Cowboy," released in 1975, is the late country singer's biggest ever hit, and it might also be the song he identified with the most on a personal level. With lyrics about "a load of compromising" and the desire to be "where the lights are shinin' on me," it's a song of career frustration and hope. It was a familiar story for Glen Campbell, who'd achieved fame with songs like "Galveston" and "Wichita Lineman," but was in a rut by the mid-'70s.

"I thought it was my autobiography set to song," he recalled. 

He'd been to the top, he'd lived the country-star life in the limelight -- indeed, "like a rhinestone cowboy" -- but longed to return. The song, a huge hit worldwide, was just the vehicle he needed.

It's fairly amazing that lyrics written by a songwriter named Larry Weiss, whom Campbell had never met, struck such a nerve and seemed so revflective of Campbell's own life experiences. Weiss's version of the song had been released and had flopped, and Weiss was considering giving up on music and going into the furniture business around the time Campbell was discovering his personal connection to "Rhinestone Cowboy." Just how "autobiographical" were Weiss's lyrics? Let's just say that, line by line, you can see elements of Campbell's life story pretty clearly. Starting from the beginning, with the opening lyric about trudging through the same familiar streets without seeming to get anywhere...