It was 1975 and Glen Campbell was one of the most popular performers in the country. In late May, he released the perfect song about a seasoned, dreaming cowboy at a crossroads.
Rhinestone Cowboy also was a perfect song of summer as it sailed up both the country and pop charts. No one could sing it as well as Glen Campbell, but most everybody knew that hustle was the name of the game and sometimes it’s ok to take the long way.
Maybe Glen Campbell was singing about his own career. Although Campbell didn’t write the words and music, it sounded so authentic that he might as well have been wearing rhinestones.
Someone Else Wrote This Perfect Glen Campbell Song
Larry Weiss was the first to introduce Rhinestone Cowboy to the country. He wrote the song, then recorded it in 1974. The tune moved to No. 24 on the adult contemporary charts. And Campbell heard it on a Los Angeles radio show. He loved it so much that he bought Weiss’ album and brought it with him when he toured Australia. That’s where he learned to make it his own. When he returned home, Campbell told his record company he planned on recording the cover.
Campbell especially liked these words:
“There’s been a load of compromising on the road to my horizon. But I’m gonna be where the lights are shinin’ on me.” And in this song, the cowboy is bedazzled in rhinestones as he rides out in his own Star Spangled Rodeo.
The Glen Campbell song was a simultaneous No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the country charts. It’s the first time that happened since 1961, when Jimmy Dean sang Big, Bad John. And the song dominated during a tumultuous summer and early fall. Unemployment was up. Jaws was the biggest movie. And a Charles Manson disciple tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford. The United States needed a soulful, uplifting song about a cowboy finally finding fame.
Campbell performed the song on Midnight Special. And he wasn’t wearing rhinestones. Rather, he donned a distressed leather jacket and pants. And he capped off the look with a silver and turquoise necklace.
And 1975 also was a good crossover year for country artists not named Glen Campbell. Other singers and songs that hit No. 1 on both the pop and country charts were Freddy Fender, “Before the Next Teardrop Falls; B.J. Thomas and “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” and John Denver’s Thank God I’m a Country Boy and I’m Sorry”/”Calypso. And also add C.W. McCoy and Convoy.
The Captain and Tennille produced the top single of the year with Love Will Keep Us Together. But there was Glen Campbell at No. 2 on the list, just ahead of Elton John and Philadelphia Freedom.
The song also proved to be one of the last No. 1 hits for Glen Campbell. In 1977, he recorded Southern Nights, which reached No. 1. It was Campbell’s final No. 1 record.
Rhinestone Cowboy had more staying power than other Glen Campbell hits. It ended up inspiring the 1984 movie Rhinestone, which starred Sylvester Stallone and Dolly Parton.
Here’s to Glen Campbell and his fabulous Rhinestone Cowboy cover. We all can use some good tunes and a smidge of sequins. Campbell died in 2017, but his music lives on.