“We had an idea, we cut it and then put it in the can. And then this,” he recently told SiriusXM host and former MTV VJ Mark Goodman during a chat at New York’s 92nd Street Y as he pointed at his ears. “We decided to share them with the fans.”
Lewis was stricken with Meniere’s disease, an incurable inner-ear condition that’s affected his ability to sing on-key, in 2018. The diagnosis has prevented him from touring — “I miss the camaraderie of our circus,” he said, referring to the News’ tour crew — but that doesn’t mean he’s retiring.
He’s now working on a jukebox musical built around his catalog called The Heart of Rock & Roll, for which he’s written a new song. The show was first staged in San Diego in September 2018; Lewis is hoping to bring it to Broadway.
“The part I enjoy the most are the people,” he noted. “Broadway people are so much fun to be around with. I’m very happy with the way the music has been handled. I try to stay involved creatively, and to remember that despite this [the hearing loss]. I’m a lucky guy.”
Lewis also spoke of spending time fly fishing at his Montana home and acknowledged his family’s support. “My kids have been a constant source of inspiration,” he said. “Family is everything.”
Goodman noted that the songs on Weather — including “One of the Boys,” which was written for Willie Nelson — carry a thematic thread about relationships, to which Lewis joked, “I’m gonna see my therapist about that.”
Lewis said that coming up with material that emotionally connects with people is part of his job. “Our stuff tends to be up and down,” he explained. “The happiest American music comes from people who have nothing. I like to cheer people up. Those are the songs I like to write.”