Thursday, January 17th: JOHN MELLENCAMP
John Mellencamp is an American singer-songwriter who became popular in the 1980s by creating basic, often folk-inflected hard rock and presenting himself as a champion of small-town values.
Raised in southern Indiana—with which he is strongly identified—Mellencamp began playing in rock bands as a teenager. His first two albums, released in the late 1970s, disappeared without a trace; however, repackaged as a heartland glam rocker by the moniker “Johnny Cougar,” he had his first hit, “I Need a Lover,” in late 1979. With two more big hits, “Hurts So Good” and “Jack and Diane,” the album American Fool (1982) made Mellencamp a star.
Although criticized by some at this stage of his career as a humourless, self-important Bruce Springsteen manqué—patronizing his working-class subjects rather than celebrating them—Mellencamp suddenly matured as a songwriter. His lyrics grew more empathic, and his music acquired an incisive, crackling power. Released under his birth name, Scarecrow (1985) and The Lonesome Jubilee (1987) were his commercial and artistic high points, exploring the impact of Ronald Reagan’s presidency on Middle America and producing the hits “Small Town,” “R.O.C.K. in the USA,” and “Cherry Bomb.”
Through the late 90s, while no longer a mainstay on the pop charts, Mellencamp continued writing music that reflected his musings on life, middle age, and his roots.
With decades of musical success, including 22 Top 40 hits and 13 Grammy Award nominations, Mellencamp has yet to slow down. Mellencamp released his 23rd studio album this year, titled Other People’s Stuff.