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Sunday, January 20, 2002

John Mellencamp

The Rock Star

Singer/songwriter John Mellencamp was born on October 7, 1951 in Seymour, Indiana. After a brief stint as a glam rocker, Mellencamp was signed up for a recording deal with MainMan in 1976. The deal, which was brokered by David Bowie's manager Tony de Fries, involved Mellencamp switching to the stage name "Johnny Cougar" and adopting a James Dean style image. When the record (mostly of covers of other people's work) didn't sell, he moved back to Indiana and signed with Riva Records, which touted him as "the next Bruce Springsteen."

In 1979, Johnny Cougar scored his first Top Thirty hit with the song "I Need A Lover". The hits kept coming with his 1982 album American Fool, which included his signature songs "Hurts So Good" and "Jack and Diane". American Fool sold over 5 million copies.

Seeking to get back to the man he truly was, he started using the stage name "John Cougar Mellencamp" in 1983, and he dropped the "Cougar" entirely in 1989. However, in recognition of the ornery side of his personality, for some later albums he used the nickname "Little Bastard" for his songwriting and production credits.

Mellencamp had a string of straight-ahead rock hits throughout the 80s, and in the 90s he got more into acoustic and roots music.

In 1994, soon after releasing Dance Naked, he suffered a life-changing heart attack which made him give up much of his unhealthy rock star lifestyle. However, he recovered and has been musically strong ever since. His first album after his recovery was 1996's Mr Happy Go Lucky. His self-titled 1998 album garnered him some of the best reviews of his career.

In 2000, he began collaborating with Stephen King to create a ghost story stage musical. This project has been delayed somewhat by King's recovery from being hit by the van.

Livin' In A Small Town

Mellencamp spends a lot of time in Seymour, which is close to Bloomington, Indiana. If you live in Bloomington or spend a few years at Indiana University, you will at some point see Mr. Mellencamp, most likely when he decides to take his motorcycle for a spin around Bloominton's downtown some Friday or Saturday night.

He also regularly shops in Bloomington grocery stores, particularly Mr. D's. Around 1994, one of my former housemates spotted him there one early Sunday morning. As she came back into our apartment with her groceries, she said:

"Oh. My. God. I was in the canned foods aisle, and there was this old scruffy bum in there looking at the green beans. He was wearing this ratty overcoat, and he was wearing running shorts with these white tube socks pulled up to his knees. And then this beautiful blonde model-looking woman walks up and gives him a kiss, and I realized it was John Cougar Mellencamp!"

This was likely during the time that he was recovering from his heart attack, so impressing the townies with his sense of style was probably not high on his list of priorities.

In the late '90s, he took a major step in preserving his legacy in Bloomington and at IU. He donated $1.5 million dollars toward the construction of an indoor athletic facility on the IU campus. The 100,000 square foot John Mellencamp Pavilion opened in the 1996-97 school year to provide playing space for football, baseball, softball, soccer and other varsity sports.

Discography

  • Cuttin' Heads - 2001
  • Rough Harvest - 1999
  • John Mellencamp - 1998
  • The Best That I Could Do - 1997
  • Mr. Happy Go Lucky - 1996
  • Dance Naked - 1994
  • Human Wheels - 1993
  • Falling From Grace Soundtrack - 1992
  • Whenever We Wanted - 1991
  • Big Daddy - 1989
  • The Lonesome Jubilee - 1987
  • Scarecrow - 1985
  • Uh-huh - 1983
  • American Fool - 1982
  • Nothin' Matters and What if It Did - 1980
  • John Cougar - 1979
  • A Biography - 1978
  • U.S. Male - 1978
  • The Kid Inside - 1977
  • Chestnut Street Incident - 1976

Selected Singles

  • "I Need A Lover" - 1979
  • "Ain't Even Done With The Night" - 1980
  • "This Time" - 1980
  • "Jack and Diane" - 1982
  • "Hurt So Good" - 1982
  • "Hand To Hold On To" - 1982
  • "Crumblin' Down" - 1983
  • "Pink Houses" - 1984
  • "Authority Song" - 1984
  • "Lonely Ol' Night" - 1985
  • "Small Town" - 1985
  • "R.O.C.K. In The USA" - 1986
  • "Rain On The Scarecrow" - 1986
  • "Rumbleseat" - 1986
  • "Paper In Fire" - 1987
  • "Cherry Bomb" - 1987
  • "Check It Out" - 1988
  • "Pop Singer" - 1989
  • "Get A Leg Up" - 1991
  • "Again Tonight" - 1992
  • "Wild Night" - 1994
  • "Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)" - 1996

Some information was gleaned from http://www.mtv.com/bands/az/mellencamp_john/bio.jhtml and http://www.mellencamp.com/

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