NJ’s ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ writer overcomes COVID-19, talks Bruce (Opinion)
You may not know the name Larry Weiss, but you probably know some of the many hit songs he's written, including "Bend Me Shape Me" which was recorded by "The American Breed," Jeff Beck's "Hi Ho Silver Lining" and "Rhinestone Cowboy." He is currently recovering from COVID-19 and his latest work is a sign of the times called "Ordinary Joe."
Born in Newark to a mother who came through Ellis Island from Poland and a father whose parents were from Russia, Weiss explained his latest work to me in an email conversation.
"A little bit about my father, but most of all, about the generations of fathers everywhere and about patriotism and the love of this country. When I sit down behind my piano, I look up towards the heavens and say, ’OK, I’m ready.’ As long as I don’t get in the way, get too mental about it, it always works. Someone once told me, I write two kinds of songs. One that shoots through me like lightning and one that I struggle with, because God is busy talking to the neighbors. Ha!"
"Rhinestone Cowboy" was awarded song of the year by the CMA, ACM and American Music Awards. The song originally recorded by Glen Campbell and recently included by Bruce Springsteen on his "Western Stars" documentary was proclaimed one of the top ten most performed songs of the 20th century by ASCAP.
Where did the inspiration come from?
"The inspiration was multi-level. The verses were an expression of wanting to be heard and seen in the biggest way. The chorus was the expression of the kid inside who loved westerns and anything ‘cowboy’. In fact, the chorus was inspired by an old film that Joel McCrea did about Buffalo Bill."
How did he feel when he first heard Glen Campbell sing it?
"I was blown away."
How does he feel about Bruce recording it?
"It was a great honor to learn that Bruce recorded my song. I felt his interpretation brought it closer to ‘the streets’ of Broadway."
Among the artists along with Campbell and Springsteen who have sung Larry’s songs are Nat ‘King’ Cole, Dionne Warwick, Eric Burdon (and The Animals), Neil Diamond, Dolly Parton, and Loretta Lynn.
This past July, Larry contracted COVID-19, which then led to pneumonia. He was hospitalized for three months, and was in the ICU and on oxygen machines to help him breathe before being transferred to rehab centers.
"I had a roommate who came down with it and caught it from him. I wasn’t worried, just frustrated to be debilitated. I always kept myself in good shape and felt that would help me recover. There were times that I faltered, but came through it. I was determined."
COVID-19 left him with vestibular issues as well as scarring on his lungs. He’s recuperating at home now. What advice would he give?
"Wear a mask and take it seriously. It can get control over you, not the other way around. I am very grateful to still be here."
A GoFundMe page has been set up by Larry's daughter to help with his recovery. For most of his life, Larry Weiss has given us the gift of his great music, now we can help give him the gift of life.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Steve Trevelise. Any opinions expressed are Steve's own. Steve Trevelise is on New Jersey 101.5 Monday-Thursday from 7pm-11pm. Follow him on Twitter @realstevetrev.