Top 10 John Mellencamp Songs
When it comes to R-O-C-K in the U.S.A., few do it better than John Mellencamp does, and because of that, we're counting down the Top 10 John Mellencamp Songs. From his early days as Johnny Cougar through John Cougar Mellencamp to simply John Mellencamp, this Heartland rock legend has embraced the American spirit perhaps as much as any other rocker. With dozens of hits to his credit, the singer has taken on the plight of the family farmer, issues with authority figures and, of course, his own musings on relationships. So let us put our arms around you and count down Mellencamp's best with Ultimate Classic Rock's list of the Top 10 John Mellencamp Songs.
‘R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.’
Growing up in Indiana in the '60s, John Mellencamp is the first to admit that the diverse music heard on FM radio had a profound effect on his musical outlook. Name-dropping the likes of James Brown, Jackie Wilson and Martha Reeves is no mere accident. On this track, Mellencamp is sharing his childhood musical inspirations with the world.
‘I Need a Lover’
The oldest song to be featured on our list of the Top 10 John Mellencamp Songs, 'I Need a Lover' was the first hint of greatness that showed Mellencamp would amount to something substantial. Though hardly the perfect pop song (he doesn't start singing until almost two-and-a-half minutes into the song), the listener has the opportunity to hear Mellencamp and his band indulge themselves in a completely unpretentious and unrestrained way.
‘Lonely Ol’ Night’
There is a feeling of loneliness and isolation running through the next pick on our Top 10 John Mellencamp Songs list. The singer goes so far as to try to inject some optimism into the track when he sings “she calls me baby” before resigning himself to the fact that “she calls everybody baby.”You can't help but feel Mellencamp's request to put his arms around you is a subdued cry for companionship when he needs it the most.
It is probably safe to say that when this song became a hit, much of the population of working class America must have felt that Mellencamp was singing this song especially for them. The song is a testament to the singer's ability to identify with the class of people that were his fans. This intimate connection with his fans continues to still serve him well today.
Nostalgia is a theme that runs through much of Mellencamp's material. On this 1987 hit, Mellencamp recalls simpler times of dancing and laughing with his friends, realizing that while they might not have appreciated it so much at the time, the memories are something that will continue to live with him until his last day on earth.
From the rebellious nature of the guitar riff that opens this 1983 hit, Mellencamp shows he has never been one to back down from a fight — regardless of whether or not he comes out on the winning end of said fight. The fact that he admits to “…come out grinning” at the end of said battles shows that even he knows it is not the end result that always provides the most satisfaction.
Listening to Mellencamp's intimate knowledge that settling for second best is going to be the best you can do until you break the rules, you can't help but assume he knows this from personal experience. Hearing Mellencamp acknowledge that “no good deed goes unpunished” while also singing about being a whipping boy makes you think that while maybe he was not the most popular kid in high school, his convictions were as strong back then as they were when he penned this classic song.
The fact that this song was sandwiched between 'Crumblin' Down' and 'Authority Song' on record could not have been any mere accident. It was a sign of things to come, in a way, as the mood and spirit of the song hinted at the path that Mellencamp would travel on his next full-length effort. Mellencamp's opinion that America is whatever you make it to be never rang more true than in this song.
‘Hurts So Good’
'Hurts So Good' is a coming of age song in which Mellencamp tries to persuade the listener that growing up isn't as bad as some might crack it up to be. Much like its position on the Top 10 John Mellencamp Songs, 'Hurts So Good' would ascend to the No. 2 spot on the Billboard singles charts in 1982. The track would ultimately spend a total of 16 weeks in the Billboard Top 10 Singles.
‘Jack and Diane’
Was it really any surprise that this song would end up in the No. 1 position? 'Jack and Diane' is one of the biggest hits of Mellencamp's storied career. A love song for the young in which he encourages people to “hold onto 16 as long as you can,” chances are good that many teens were taken by this song in 1982, feeling as though Mellencamp just might have a good idea of what he's talking about.