Song Spotlight: “Rhinestone Cowboy”

Black outline of a cowboy hat over a background of translucent drops on a gray background. Song spotlight genre label reads "county."
  • Mood: Optimistic
  • Themes: Fame, 70s Country
  • Tempo: Moderate
  • Genre/Style: Country

Glen Campbell was a well rounded performer who started out in the music industry as a session musician. In his time as a session musician, he had recorded 586 tracks in three years for artists such as the Beach Boys, Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers, Nancy Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and many others.

He had his first breakthrough solo hit in 1965 with a cover version of Buffy Saint-Marie’s “Universal Soldier.“Rhinestone Cowboy” was released in 1975, ten years after his first hit. It was an instant bestseller and was popular with both pop music and country music fans. In 2002, Campbell made a techno/pop remix version of the song with UK artists Rikki & Daz, which hit the top 10 in the UK. “Rhinestone Cowboy” also became the name of Glen Campbell’s 1994 autobiography.

Campbell’s career journey mirrored the story of the song, which tells of working hard as an artist even when there are struggles, in hopes that someday you will shine. 

Here are some of the lyrics from that first section, telling of the hard times:

I’ve been walkin’ these streets so long

Singin’ the same old song

I know every crack in these dirty sidewalks of Broadway

Where hustle’s the name of the game

And nice guys get washed away

Like the snow and the rain


Then he follows up with his vision for the glory days:

Like a rhinestone cowboy

Riding out on a horse in a star-spangled rodeo

Like a rhinestone cowboy

Getting cards and letters from people I don’t even know

And offers comin’ over the phone

This is a great song to use in a 1:1 setting or in a group, and it would go well with a collection of songs that feature 70s country songs or fame as a concept. It is a great opportunity for singing, movement, or can be used as a transition into group discussion.

Try This:

Theme: This song would fit well into a collection of songs about weather or moods.  Other complementary songs may include “Stormy Weather,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” and “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head.”

Have a discussion about different topics that can arise from the song. For example:

  • What does it mean to be a Rhinestone Cowboy?
  • Have you ever been to or been in a rodeo?
  • Would you ever want to be famous?
  • Who are some of your favorite famous country singers?

Sing along with the chorus of the song, displaying or printing out the lyrics if desired.

Read the lyrics of the song and discuss what is relatable about the lyrics or things that are not relatable to their everyday experiences.

Play shakers or percussion instruments along with this song, changing how you play on the chorus and on the verses. 

Create a design for a rhinestone suit or pick out what animal or flower you would have on a rhinestone suit. Look to the outfits of artists like Elvis and Porter Wagoner, or samples from western suit designer Nudie Cohn for inspiration.

For more song spotlights, visit our Song Spotlights page.

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