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John Mellencamp

Mostly Credited As: John Mellencamp
Sometimes Credited As: John Cougar Mellencamp
John Cougar

Date Of Birth: October 07, 1951 (Age 63)
Country Of Birth: USA
Birth Place: Seymour, Indiana
Height: 5' 7" (1.7 m)

John Mellencamp


Throughout his career, John Mellencamp has had to fight, whether it was for the right to record under his own name or for respect as an artist. Of course, he never made it easy on himself. Mellencamp began his career in the late '70s as a Bruce Springsteen clone called Johnny Cougar. As his career progressed, his music became more distinctive, developing into a Stonesy blend of hard rock and folk-rock. His musical development coincided with his growth in popularity -- by the time "Hurts So Good" and "Jack and Diane" became hits in 1982, Mellencamp had created his own variation of the heartland rock of Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Bob Seger. While he had the record sales, it took several years before rock critics took him seriously. For some artists, this would be easy to ignore, but Mellencamp had the desire to be a serious social commentator, chronicling the times and trials of Midwestern baby boomers. Scarecrow, released in 1985, fulfilled his wish of being taken serious, and every record he released after it was greeted warmly by critics. Furthermore, he sustained his popularity into the late '90s, only occasionally experiencing dips in record sales.

A prolonged, acclaimed career seemed an impossibility when Mellencamp released his first album under the name Johnny Cougar in 1976. As a child in Seymour, IN, Mellencamp had suffered a number of setbacks, including being born with a neural tube defect called spina bifida that necessitated a lengthy hospitalization as a baby. As a teenager, he was rebellious, often getting in trouble with the law. He formed his first band at the age of 14, and continued to play throughout his teens. When he was 17, he eloped with Pricilla Esterline, his pregnant girlfriend, and proceeded to try to support his family by working a series of blue-collar jobs. By the time he was 24, he had decided to move to New York City to attempt to break into the music industry. In New York, Mellencamp became a client of David Bowie's manager, Tony DeFries, who signed him to a lucrative deal with Mainman/MCA. Mellencamp recorded an album of covers called Chestnut Street Incident. Upon receiving the finished album in 1976, he was infuriated to learn that DeFries had billed the singer as Johnny Cougar. Chestnut Street Incident was a bomb and MCA immediately dropped the singer. The fiasco of his first album was enough to sour Mellencamp toward the industry for the remainder of his career. Two years later, he signed with Riva Records, releasing A Biography (1978) to little attention. However, Johnny Cougar (1979) spawned the Top 40 hit "I Need a Lover," which also became an AOR hit for Pat Benatar a few years later. Steve Cropper produced 1980's Nothin' Matters and What If It Did, which contained the Top 30 hits "This Time" and "Ain't Even Done With the Night."

Mellencamp's next album, 1982's American Fool, became his breakthrough, both commercially and musically. More focused than his earlier records, American Fool rocketed to number one on the strength of the number two hit "Hurts So Good" and the number one single "Jack & Diane," both of which were supported by videos that became MTV favorites. The success of American Fool meant that he could add "Mellencamp" to his stage name, and 1983's Uh-Huh became the first album credited to John Cougar Mellencamp. Uh-Huh was released while American Fool was still high on the charts, and it became a hit, peaking at number nine and generating the Top Ten hits "Crumblin' Down" and "Pink Houses," as well as the Top 15 "Authority Song." He supported the album with his first headlining tour. While he had commercial success, Mellencamp made his bid for critical acclaim with his next album, 1985's Scarecrow. Scarecrow displayed a greater social conscious and musical eclecticism, resulting in his best-reviewed -- as well as his biggest -- album to date. Peaking at number two, Scarecrow generated the Top Ten singles "Lonely Ol' Night," "Small Town," and "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." Following the release of the of Scarecrow, Mellencamp became an outspoken advocate of the American farmer, organizing Farm Aid with Willie Nelson and Neil Young. He also became known for his anticorporate stance, refusing to accept tour sponsorship offers from beer and tobacco companies.

Mellencamp continued to explore social commentary and new musical avenues with 1987's The Lonesome Jubilee. Featuring a distinct Appalachian folk and country influence, The Lonesome Jubilee was a melancholy elegy for the forgotten middle America, and while it was more adventurous than its predecessors, it was another hit, peaking at number six and generating the hits "Paper in Fire," "Cherry Bomb," and "Check It Out." Mellencamp continued to explore American roots music on Big Daddy (1989). While the album received generally good reviews and peaked at number seven, it failed to produce a big single. Two years later, he returned with Whenever We Wanted, which was another moderate hit, peaking at number 17. Human Wheels (1993) received some of Mellencamp's strongest reviews, yet the record didn't generate a hit single and quickly fell down the charts after debuting at number seven. Mellencamp bounced back into the Top Ten in 1994, when his duet with Me'Shell NdegéOcello on Van Morrison's "Wild Night" peaked at number three. Its accompanying album, Dance Naked, became his biggest album since Big Daddy, going gold months after its release. Mellencamp planned to support the album with an extensive tour, but he suffered a major heart attack in late 1994 that necessitated its cancellation. Mellencamp spent 1995 recuperating, re-emerging in 1996 with Mr. Happy Go Lucky. Produced by Junior Vasquez and demonstrating a slight dance influence, Mr. Happy Go Lucky was greeted with positive reviews and featured the minor hit single "Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)," which helped the album go gold. The album was his last for longtime label Mercury, and he moved to Columbia for 1998's John Mellencamp. Rough Harvest, a collection of unreleased material, appeared a year later.

Cuttin' Heads, his second album for Columbia and 20th overall, followed in 2001 and spawned a radio hit with "Peaceful World," featuring neo-soul singer India.Arie on backing vocals. Also in 2001, he won the Billboard Century Award for creative achievement. Inspired by his performance of Robert Johnson's "Stones in My Passway" at an October 2002 tribute concert for the late music journalist Timothy White, Mellencamp recorded a covers album, Trouble No More, in 2003. It was released that summer and topped the Billboard Blues chart.

TV Appearances

Episode Cast Credits 

CBS This Morning (1987) 
  Season 15, Episode 198 15x198: (Oct/03/2014) As Himself, [Interviewees]

Today (US) (1952) 
  Season 63, Episode 185 63x185: (Sep/26/2014) As Himself, [Interviewees]

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (2014) 
  Chris Pratt, Rosamund Pike, John Mellencamp 01x132: (Sep/25/2014) As Himself, [Musical Guests]

Great Performances (1974) 
  Bob Dylan: The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration 41x14: (Mar/01/2014) As Himself 

The Colbert Report (2005) 
  Stephen King, John Mellencamp, T Bone Burnett 09x74: (Jun/06/2013) As Himself, [Interviewees]
  Mark Moffett 03x90: (Jul/17/2007) As Himself 

The Late Show with David Letterman (1993) 
  Johnny Galecki, John Mellencamp, Stephen King, Queens of the Stone Age 20x142: (Jun/05/2013) As Himself, [Interviewees]
  Ray Romano, John Mellencamp 18x50: (Dec/06/2010) As Himself, [Musical Guests]
  Ricky Gervais, John Mellencamp 15x147: (Jul/17/2008) As Himself 
  Chris Elliott, Kelly Ripa, John Mellencamp 14x91: (Feb/07/2007) As Himself 

In Performance at the White House (2010) 
  A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement 01x03: (Feb/11/2010) As Himself, [Musical Guests]

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (1992) 
  Bill Cosby, Emma Stone, John Mellencamp with T Bone Burnett 16x163: (Aug/01/2008) As Himself, [Musical Guests]
  Animals With Joan Embery, William H. Macy, John Mellencamp 15x104: (Feb/23/2007) As Himself 
  Catherine Zeta Jones, John C. Reilly, Travis Tritt & John Mellencamp 13x52: (Dec/08/2004) As Himself 
  Drew Carey, Erin Brodie, John Mellencamp 11x258: (Jul/28/2003) As Himself - Musical Guest 

Real Time With Bill Maher (2003) 
  Episode 106 05x16: (Aug/31/2007) As Himself 

The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (2005) 
  Merv Griffin, Nia Long, John Mellencamp 03x46: (Mar/19/2007) As Himself, [Interviewees]
  John Mellencamp, Oscar De La Hoya 03x40: (Mar/02/2007) As Himself, [Interviewees]

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart (1996) 
  John Mellencamp 12x20: (Feb/08/2007) As Himself 

Jimmy Kimmel Live (2003) 
  Andy Garcia, John Mellencamp 05x14: (Jan/24/2007) As Himself 

CMT Top 20 Countdown (2001) 
  April 6, 2006 01x47: (Apr/06/2006) As Himself 

Last Call with Carson Daly (2002) 
  Allison Janney, Ondi Timoner, John Mellencamp 03x117: (Nov/04/2004) As Himself 
  Eric Christian Olsen & Derek Richardson, John Mellencamp 02x62: (Jun/12/2003) As Himself 

Soundstage (2003) (2003) 
  Farm Aid 2003 01x13: (Nov/2003) As Himself, [Musical Guests]

Late Night with Conan O'Brien (1993) 
  Seth Green, Eddie Izzard, John Mellencamp 10x130: (Jun/06/2003) As Himself 

Billboard Music Awards (1990) 
  12th Billboard Music Awards 12x01: (Dec/05/2001) As Billboard Century Award 

Behind The Music (1997) 
  John Mellencamp 02x08: (Nov/08/1998) As Himself 

MTV Unplugged (1989) 
  John Mellencamp 03x07: (Aug/12/1992) As Himself 

Saturday Night Live (1975) 
  Geena Davis/John Mellencamp 14x18: (Apr/22/1989) As Himself, [Musical Guests]
  Brandon Tartikoff/John Cougar 09x01: (Oct/08/1983) As Himself, [Musical Guests]
  Daniel J. Travanti/John Cougar 07x16: (Apr/10/1982) As Himself, [Musical Guests]

AL-TV (0) 
  Polka Party! 01x04: (Feb/03/1987) As Himself 

American Bandstand (1957) 
  John Cougar Mellencamp / Ray Parker, Jr. 25x24: (Apr/24/1982) As Himself 
  Kool and the Gang / John Cougar Mellencamp 24x13: (Jan/10/1981) As Himself 
  John Cougar Mellencamp / ELO (video) 23x10: (Jan/05/1980) As Himself 

The Midnight Special (1973) 
  Host: Stephanie Mills 09x09: (Nov/07/1980) As Himself 

Love Monkey (2006) 
  Coming Out 01x08: (Unaired) As Himself, [Featuring]
Featured Songs

Cold Case Songs:
Kensington + Authority Song
+ Between A Laugh And A Tear
+ Crumblin' Down
+ The Face Of The Nation
+ Hand To Hold On To
+ Hurt So Good
+ Jack and Diane
+ Small Town
+ Walk Tall 
Criminal Minds Songs:
Distress + Ghost Towns Along the Highway 
Knight Rider (1982) Songs:
Give Me Liberty... or Give Me Death + Hurts So Good 
Love Monkey Songs:
Coming Out + Our Country
+ Your Life is Now 
Beverly Hills, 90210 Songs:
Unnecessary Roughness + The Authority Song 
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