John Mellencamp

John Mellencamp Headshot

Singer • Songwriter

Birth Date: October 7, 1951

Age: 72 years old

Birth Place: Seymour, Indiana

Children: Teddi Mellencamp Arroyave

Legendary rocker John Mellencamp earned legions of fans and the admiration of critics for delivering patriotic and soul-stirring messages through his music. The gruff-voiced, denim-clad hitmaker sang about the nostalgia of youth, the complexities of love and loss, and the American dream, as exemplified by songs such as "Hurts So Good" and "Jack & Diane" from his 1982 breakout album, American Fool.

A modern day renaissance man, Mellencamp was also an accomplished artist and acclaimed filmmaker who delivered a brilliant debut - as the director and star - in the musical drama feature, "Falling From Grace" (1992). Together with fellow musical icons Willie Nelson and Neil Young, Mellencamp co-founded Farm Aid, a benefit concert and organization in support of America's farmers, which demonstrated his success and influence not only as a recording artist, but also a fervent and vocal humanitarian.

John Mellencamp was born Oct. 7, 1951 in Seymour, IN, with a form of spina bifida that required surgery and lengthy hospitalization. The future star fell in love with music at an early age, performing in local bars and fronting the band Crepe Soul by the time he was 14. At 18, Mellencamp eloped with his girlfriend Priscilla, who gave birth to their child just six months after their high school graduation. He experimented with drugs and alcohol while attending Vincennes University in Indiana, but he went clean before graduating college in 1974.

Two years later, Mellencamp released his debut album, The Chestnut Street Incident under the stage name Johnny Cougar, given to him by his manager who thought his real last name was not marketable enough. The album consisted of cover songs, from Roy Orbison's "Oh, Pretty Woman" (1964) to Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock" (1957), as well as a few original Mellencamp compositions. He made his Top 40 chart debut in 1979 with "I Need a Lover" from the album A Biography (1978). The song was also a hit for Pat Benatar, who recorded a cover of the song in 1980.

After releasing a few more albums, Mellencamp rolled out his breakout album, American Fool in 1982, which yielded the monster No. 1 hit, "Jack & Diane." Inspired by the 1961 film "Splendor in the Grass" starring Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty, the song spent four weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was named one of the Songs of the Century by the Recording Industry Association of America.

American Fool also included the up-tempo rock anthem "Hurts So Good," which spent 16 weeks in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, the longest time for any song released in the 1980s and won a Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. His mainstream success allowed the singer to add his real surname to his stage name. Uh-Huh (1983), his first album as John Cougar Mellencamp, reached the Billboard Top 10 in large thanks to the hit tracks "Pink Houses" and "Crumblin' Down."

Mellencamp's music, characterized by its all-American lyrics and down home rock sound, dominated the airwaves throughout the 1980s. The accompanying music videos often featured the denim-clad singer with a guitar in hand, stunning rural landscapes, and patriotic themes. He released more hits during this decade, including "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A. (A Salute to '60s Rock)" and "Small Town," both from the 1985 album, Scarecrow.

The plight of rural America, specifically low-earning farmers and their families, inspired Mellencamp to team up with fellow rockers Willie Nelson and Neil Young, and organize the first Farm Aid benefit concert. Held on Sept. 22, 1985 in Champaign, IL, the history-making event featured performances from its organizers, as well as legendary acts Bob Dylan, Carole King, and dozens others. By establishing the Farm Aid organization, Mellencamp and his co-founders helped to pass the Agricultural Credit Act of 1987, which saved family-owned farms from foreclosure.

The annual Farm Aid concert celebrated its 25th anniversary in October 2010, and included mainstream headliners Dave Matthews and Norah Jones. A staunch supporter of the armed forces and veterans, Mellencamp spoke out against the Iraqi War, publicly criticized President George W. Bush, and often performed for wounded soldiers at the Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

In 2008 - the same year he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - Mellencamp requested Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain stop using his song "Pink Houses" during campaign events. Ironically, the rocker performed "Pink Houses" during President Barack Obama's inaugural celebration in 2009, making it clear where he fell on the political spectrum.

Mellencamp dropped Cougar from his stage moniker in the early 1990s and reclaimed his spot in the Top 10 with a cover of Van Morrison's 1971 classic "Wild Night." Mellencamp's version, from the album Dance Naked (1994), featured soulful singer and multi-instrumentalist Meshell Ndegeocello. Their duet reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained in the Top 40 for several weeks in 1994.

That same year, Mellencamp suffered a massive heart attack that forced him to cancel several tour dates. He returned to the music scene in 1996 with Mr. Happy Go Lucky, an experimental rock album that featured "Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)," a Top 40 single in the U.S. Aside from music, Mellencamp explored other ventures throughout his career.

He was an accomplished artist who published the art book Mellencamp: Paintings and Reflections (1998). The rocker took Hollywood by storm with his directorial and acting debut "Falling From Grace," about a married country music star who settles back into small town life and discovers he still has feelings for his high school sweetheart. Mellencamp was reportedly up for Brad Pitt's role in Ridley Scott's award-winning drama "Thelma and Louise" (1991) but turned it down.

The singer's other acting credits included narrating the sport drama "Madison" (2001) and a supporting role in the crime comedy "A Lone Star State of Mind" (2002).

One of Mellencamp's biggest real-life roles was being a family man. He was married three times and had five children. Even though he maintained a relatively low-key private life, Mellencamp made headlines in December 2010 when news broke that he separated from his third wife, former supermodel Elaine Irwin Mellencamp, after 18 years of marriage. It was also revealed that the rocker was reportedly dating actress Meg Ryan.

The celebrity pair began making their relationship public in early 2011, being photographed together in Ontario, Canada and New York City. (After a separation between 2014 and 2017, the couple got engaged in November 2018.) Mellencamp kept touring in support of his music through the 2000s, including his 18th album, Life, Death, Love and Freedom (2008), produced by T-Bone Burnett. He released the career-spanning box set On the Rural Route 7609 in 2010, which contained 54 of the rocker's greatest hits.

That same year, Mellencamp released a new folk-oriented album, No Better Than This. While continuing to tour, Mellencamp followed it up with Plain Spoken (2014) and Sad Clowns and Hillbillies (2017). In between, he wrote and performed the score for Ryan's film "Ithaca" (2015).

Credits

With

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2023

The Best of Farm Aid 2022

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2022

Farm Aid 2022

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2022

CBS Mornings

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2021

John Mellencamp: Wasted Days

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2021

Best of Farm Aid 2019

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2020

Farm Aid

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2019

4th of July

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2019

John Mellencamp: It's About You

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2018

John Mellencamp: Plain Spoken - Live in Chicago

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2018

4th of July

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2018

John Mellencamp: Small Town (Live)

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2018

Perfect in '76

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2017

John Mellencamp Feat. Martina McBride: Grandview

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2017

Today's Take

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2016

I Am Johnny Cash

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2016

Rock & Roll Road Trip With Sammy Hagar

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2016

Farm Aid 30

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2016

The 49th Annual CMA Awards

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2015

The Late Show With Stephen ColbertStream

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2015

Johnny Cash: American Rebel Exclusive First Look

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2015

Red Nose Day

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2015

Billy Joel: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize

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2015

Speakeasy

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2015

Ithaca

Original Music
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2015

iHeartRadio Icons Live: John Mellencamp

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2014

Farm Aid 2014

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2014

Last Week Tonight With John OliverStream

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2014

Late Night With Seth MeyersStream

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2014

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy FallonStream

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2014

John Mellencamp: Troubled Man

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2014

The Big Interview With Dan RatherStream

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2013

Woody Guthrie at 100! Live at the Kennedy Center

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2013

CBS This Morning

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2012

John Mellencamp: No Better Than This

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2010

The 32nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors

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2009

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2009

John Mellencamp: My Sweet Love

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2008

Billy Joel Feat. John Mellencamp: Pink Houses (Live)

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2008

John Mellencamp: A Ride Back Home

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2008

John Mellencamp: Troubled Land

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2008

Today With Kathie Lee & Hoda

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2007

John Mellencamp: Cherry Bomb

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2006

John Mellencamp: Check It Out

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2006

John Mellencamp: Rain On The Scarecrow

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2006

John Mellencamp: Authority Song

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2006

John Mellencamp: Get a Leg Up

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2006

John Mellencamp: Jack & Diane

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2006

John Mellencamp: Paper in Fire

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2006

John Mellencamp: Rooty Toot Toot

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2006

The Colbert Report

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2005

Tavis Smiley

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2004

Tavis Smiley

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2004

John Mellencamp: Peaceful World

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2004

John Mellencamp: Walk Tall

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2004

Jimmy Kimmel Live!Stream

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2003

CMT CrossroadsStream

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2001

After Image

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Joe MacCormack
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2001

The Early Show

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1999

The Daily Show With Jon StewartStream

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1999

John Mellencamp: Your Life Is Now

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1998

John Mellencamp: I'm Not Running Anymore

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1998

The WaterboyStream

Non-Original Music
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1998
33%

VH1 Storytellers

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1996

Extra

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1994

John Mellencamp Feat. Me'Shell Ndegeocello: Wild Night

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1994

John Mellencamp Feat. Me'Shell Ndegeocello: Wild Night

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1994

Late Show With David Letterman

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1993

Late Show With David Letterman

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1993

Falling From Grace

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Bud Parks
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1992

Falling From Grace

Director
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1992

John Mellencamp: Again Tonight

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1991

John Mellencamp: Love and Happiness

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1991

John Mellencamp: Now More Than Ever

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1991

CocktailStream

Original Music
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1988
9%

John Mellencamp: Small Town

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1985

John Mellencamp: Pink Houses

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1983

Billy Joel Feat. John Mellencamp: Pink Houses (Live At Shea Stadium 2008)

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1983

John Mellencamp: Hurts So Good

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1982

SCTV

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1981

CBS News Sunday MorningStream

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1979

Good Morning America

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1975

Good Morning America

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1975

Saturday Night LiveStream

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1975

Great PerformancesStream

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1972

Today

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1952

Today

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1952

News aboutJohn Mellencamp