It was just a few years after his birth (10/7/51) in Seymour, Indiana that John Mellencamp fell in love with music. By the time he was 14, he was gigging in local bars and fronting a soul band. After college and the birth of his first child, his career began in earnest when, in 1976, MCA Records released his first album, The Chestnut Street Incident. His manager dubbed him Johnny Cougar, noting, nobody's ever going to buy a record by anybody named Mellencamp. John begged to differ but was overruled.
After releasing a few not-so-successful albums, his first hit, "I Need A Lover," broke through in 1979. His fifth album, 1982's American Fool, on the strength of two huge hits "Hurts So Good," and the number 1 single "Jack & Diane," was the best selling album of 1982.
The albums that followed in the 80's, Uh-Huh, Scarecrow, Lonesome Jubilee, and Big Daddy, were released under the name John Cougar Mellencamp. Hit singles during this period included "Pink Houses," "Crumblin Down," "The Authority Song," "Small Town," "Rain On The Scarecrow," "Lonely Ol Night," ""R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A.," "Paper In Fire," "Check It Out," "Cherry Bomb," "Pop Singer," and "Jackie Brown." Mellencamp took the music on the road with a band that is generally regarded as the best in the business with several world tours and, literally, a thousand shows in the 80's.
In 1985, John's concern for the plight of the American farmer, which was voiced in the Scarecrow album, brought him together with Willie Nelson and Neil Young to start Farm Aid in 1985. It became an annual event and has helped make many people aware of the issues farmers face and how those affect the entire nation.
In the early 1990's Cougar was, at last, no longer part of John's name and a string of successful albums, Whenever We Wanted, Human Wheels and Dance Naked (including the number 2 single "Wild Night") were released. In 1991 John made his film debut, starring in and directing Falling From Grace, a modest box office success but the movie was well received by critics. He met model Elaine Irwin that year when she starred in the video for the hit song "Get A Leg Up." They dated during the course of John's 1992 world tour and were married later that year, settling in Bloomington, Indiana. They have two boys, Hud and Speck. John has three daughters, Michelle, Teddi Jo and Justice, from earlier marriages. While on tour in 1994 promoting Dance Naked, his unhealthy lifestyle caught up to with him when he suffered a mild heart attack which caused him to take a break from his music career.
He returned in 1996 and released Mr. Happy Go Lucky that featured the hit "Key West Intermezzo" (I Saw You First). He returned to touring in 1997. Healthier and happier, he continued to write and record frequently. Releases included 1998's John Mellencamp, 1999's Rough Harvest, 2001's Cuttin Heads, and 2003's Trouble No More. Hit singles during that time ranged from "Your Life Is Now" to "I'm Not Running Anymore" to "Peaceful World." John continued to tour, hitting the road in 1999, 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2006. He received the 2001 Billboard Century award in recognition of all that he had accomplished over the course of his career and was honored with the Woody Guthrie Award in 2004. Previously, he was awarded a Grammy and had been nominated a total of 11 times.
2005 saw the release of Words & Music: John Mellencamp's Greatest Hits. It was his first career-spanning collection featuring 35 of his biggest hits plus some two new songs including "Walk Tall," which featured an award winning video that pointed out the idiocy of discrimination.
Beyond his music, John is known as a painter; several of his pieces are in the background for this MySpace. He started painting in the 1980’s after his second divorce as a way to be creative in a self-contained way. He diligently studied art and his style has evolved over the years as evidenced by several gallery shows. In recent years, he has been more active than ever with close to 100 new works completed. You can view some of his recent work on his website. He has also been working with Stephen King on The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, a play they are developing for the stage that includes new Mellencamp songs specifically written for the production. A tentative opening of April 2007 at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta, GA has been announced.
In January of 2007, John released a new studio album titled Freedom's Road It featured the hit song "Our Country" and the singles "Someday" and "The Americans. The album was the highest debuting album of his career, bowing at number 5 the week of it’s release also earning a Grammy nomination for "Our Country" for best Solo Rock Performance. John mounted an extensive promotional campaign for the album finding him performing on numerous TV shows. John set out on a Fall 2007 tour throughout the USA and continued through the beginning of 2008 visiting 12 Canadian cities.
John began working on his next album with Grammy winning producer T Bone Burnett in August of 2007, with a release date of July 15, 2008. John and the Mellencamp band set out on a 2008 world tour in promotion of the new album titled Life, Death, Love, and Freedom.
On March 10, 2008, John was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. John inducted by fellow Hall member Billy Joel at a ceremony in New York City. An exhibit celebrating John's induction is on display for one year at the Rock Hall and Museum in Cleveland, OH.
John has said many times in interviews that you will never meet anyone luckier than John Mellencamp. He is grateful for the support of those who have supported his work and career over the years. If he has any advice to offer, it’s to be tenacious, John’s found that far too many people quit too soon in the face of early disappointment. While his own early efforts may have been faltering, he stayed with it and that tenacity has been rewarded with the successes that continue to the present.
Check out his website at http://www.JohnMellencamp.com