John Mellencamp, the Indiana-born singer/songwriter who came to fame in the early ’80s under the name John Cougar, was born 70 years ago today.
Known for his roots-rock songs often celebrating small-town life in America, Mellencamp enjoyed his major commercial breakthrough with his fifth studio album, 1982’s American Fool, released under the John Cougar moniker.
American Fool is John’s only album to date to top the Billboard 200 chart, spending nine weeks at #1. It features his classic songs “Jack and Diane” and “Hurts So Good,” which peaked at #1 and #2, respectively, on the Billboard Hot 100.
Starting with his next album, 1983’s Uh-Huh, he began releasing his records under the name John Cougar Mellencamp, and beginning in 1991, he dropped “Cougar” altogether.
Among the other hits Mellencamp has scored during his long career are “Crumblin’ Down,” “Pink Houses,” “Lonely Ol’ Night,” “Small Town,” “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A. (A Salute to ’60s Rock),” “Cherry Bomb,” and a cover of Van Morrison‘s “Wild Night,” the latter a duet with Me’Shell Ndegéocello.
In 1985, Mellencamp, along with Willie Nelson and Neil Young, organized the first Farm Aid concert, and the charity event continues to raise money to support family farms each year.
Mellencamp was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018.
John’s resumé also includes a collaboration with horror author Stephen King on the Southern Gothic stage musical Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, which premiered in 2012. In addition, Mellencamp is an accomplished painter whose artwork has been exhibited numerous times.
Mellencamp’s latest release is a duet with Bruce Springsteen titled “Wasted Days,” and the track also will appear on John’s next studio album, Strictly a One-Eyed Jack, due out in 2022.
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