Story by Sara Paul
It’s mid-show at the “Concert for George,” a musical tribute to George Harrison, when keyboard player Glenn Arnowitz gets on the microphone.
“I have to admit something,” he half smiles, half sings. “My favorite Beatle was actually John,” he exclaims.
It’s a true confession, and Arnowitz gets some raucous, yet playful “boos.” The Warwick resident and long-time musician and artist is enjoying one of his latest gigs with eight other musicians—The Dark Horses—who set out to perform just one tribute concert. With sold out ticket sales and rave reviews, the group has done over a dozen shows this year.
“The audiences have been so amazing and enthusiastic. There is such an appetite for Harrison’s music, and people are on their feet for the whole show. That really fuels us,” said Glenn, a cool, 70s-lookin’ dude, who could pass for Lennon himself.
A musician since the young age of seven, Arnowitz has been and still is a member of multiple bands, playing mostly keyboards and singing, though his passion is composing. The Renaissance fella also writes orchestral music, acts, and works in the field of graphic design as designer, speaker and writer.
“I have a need for self-expression, and I always have. I’m always looking for ways to scratch that insatiable creative itch,” Glenn confides.
Like many dedicated musicians, Arnowitz saw the indelible writing on the symphonic wall when he first viewed the Beatles on that historic day in February of 1964 when the band rocked the Ed Sullivan Show.
“I really don’t know any musician who wasn’t moved by that iconic performance,” he said.
Born in 1957 in Paterson, NJ, Glenn’s family moved to Lincoln Park, N.J. for 11 years before settling in Kinnelon in 1969. When Glenn was just 16 years old, he was playing in clubs in New York City and New Jersey when he was way too young and even had to borrow identification to be admitted. While Glenn played cover songs in his early career, he has solely performed his own original compositions since 1980. He has produced over a dozen original CDs.
Music met romance, as it often does, and Glenn was introduced to the love of his life, Suzanne, in a club where she was auditioning for a band. The duo became bandmates, then life mates, and married in 1983. Suzanne tragically passed away in 2016 after a four year battle with cancer. She was 58. The couple was married for 33 years and has two daughters: Kara, 31, and Lisa, 30.
Nine months after Suzanne’s passing, with best friend and musical partner of 40 years, Gee Mancini, Glenn organized Suzy Fest, a music festival dedicated to his wife’s memory, a singer/songwriter whom he had played music with since 1978. The benefit show raised $6,000 which Glenn and Gee donated to a Warwick family. Both the husband and wife were battling cancer, and Glenn recalls how he felt when they handed them some “pocket money.”
“I have never felt so good in my life. To literally hand someone money who needed it was just an incredibly good feeling,” Glenn remembers.
Though still good-natured and optimistic, the 60-something musician is all too aware of the challenges facing the business.
“People are streaming now. They don’t pay for music, and so the industry has imploded. Record companies are not really necessary. Musicians are struggling, they are gigging, and they have to play. It used to be radio and CD sales, but not anymore. There’s more opportunity now with online resources like YouTube and Facebook, but the competition is fierce,” notes Glenn, who fondly remembers a time when he saved his pennies to record a 45” record in a recording studio.
Those pennies turned into big bucks when Glenn worked as a composer writing “jingles,” and background music for television. The royalties allowed his wife to remain home to care for their daughters. His day job for the past 27 years has been as a creative director at Pfizer, a biopharmaceutical company.
Glenn’s century-old Village of Warwick home features an attic studio space where music meets painting meets eclectic museum.
His treasures include a tongue drum acquired while on his honeymoon in Martha’s Vineyard, large World War II shells from his grandfather that serve as percussion, and an odd and indescribable bunch of hanging hippopotamus hoof nails.
In his leisure, Glenn enjoys painting acrylic on canvas dogs as well as hanging with his own petite canine Aurora, a 14-year-old Maltese.
Not quite retired, Glenn is still pondering what his “second act” is going to be.
“It’s going to be a combo platter of writing, music, painting, public speaking, and teaching,” he said.
For now, Glenn is striving for that one thing that most strive for, and the one thing that perhaps no one will ever achieve:
“In the end, I think as artists we all strive for perfection, but we just never quite get there. It’s that indefatigable commitment that drives me and keeps me going, moving forward, trying to create that perfect composition, performance, story, or painting. For me, it’s been a life-long journey.”
For more information on Glenn’s work, visit www.bigcow.me
The Warwick Valley Dispatch would like to feature local artists who are passionate in their creative pursuits. These individuals can be established artists or those who are getting started in their trade. We ask that if you know of any artists who would be appropriate for these human interest pieces that you contact Sara Paul at email@example.com or 718-702-3091.