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John Cougar Mellencamp

John Cougar MellencampAKA John Mellencamp

Born: 7-Oct-1951
Birthplace: Seymour, IN

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Singer/Songwriter
Party Affiliation: Democratic

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Jack and Diane

John Mellencamp made his entrance into the local music scene at the age of 14, and continued to perform with a variety of bands (such as the rock/R&B combo Crepe Soul) throughout his teen years. In 1966 he turned professional, working the frat party circuit as a member of Snakepit Banana Barn, but was eventually dropped from the line-up. After graduating from high school -- by which time he was already married and a father -- Mellencamp formed a cover band specializing in 1960s rock and roll called Trash, while concurrently attending Vincennes University and keeping a day job with the telephone company in order to support his family. A demo featuring a version of the Paul Revere and the Raiders tune Kicks eventually fell into the hands of the management company that handled David Bowie, and by 1976 he was signed to MCA and experiencing the thrill of being jerked around by a major label: upon receving a copy of his cover-song laden debut Chestnut Street Incident, he discovered for the first time that his management had changed his name to Johnny Cougar. The album fared poorly and he quickly found himself without a record deal and stuck with a dumb stage name.

A follow-up album recorded for MCA, The Kid Inside, was put on indefinite hold, but the singer managed to secure another record deal with the British label Riva Records, and two years later his next effort A Biography was released in the U.K. Once again, public response was not enthusiastic. It wasn't until his second attempt at the U.S. market, John Cougar, surfaced in 1979 that a presence on the all-important music charts was established, both through his own recording of the song I Need A Lover and a cover version included on the debut album by Pat Benatar. His mainstream standing was further developed with Nothin' Matters and What If It Did (1980), but the big breakthrough was brought about by the release of American Fool in 1982 -- an album that wormed its way to number one and featured the high-charting singles Hurts So Good and Jack and Diane. By this time his down-homey image was being given constant display on the fledgling MTV channel, a fact that helped both 1983's Uh-Huh (the first record on which he reclaimed his birth name, although still keeping the "Cougar" as a middle name) and 1985's Scarecrow (the first record to earn him significant critical notice).

1985 saw the beginning of Farm Aid, a festival staged to benefit struggling American farmers that was co-founded by the singer with fellow musicians Willie Nelson and Neil Young; two further incarnations of the benefit were staged in '86 and '87, both featuring Mellencamp's participation. During this period a switch was made to Mercury Records -- the first result of his new arrangement, Lonesome Jubilee (1987), featuring the integration of traditional folk/country instrumentation into the context of a typical rock band. For the accompanying tour, Mellencamp admirably eschewed any corporate sponsorship (outside of his being signed to a corporate record label, of course). A consistent output was maintained up through the mid-1990s, support for the records and tours coming more and more from a core fan base rather than chart activity and media hype (an exception to this being the top ten duet with Me'Shell NdegéOcello on the Van Morrison song Wild Night in 1994). Both acting and directing were tackled in 1992 with the feature film Falling From Grace, but not with any particular success. At the end of 1994 a heart attack forced Mellencamp to spend more than a year recuperating, but a return to activity was eventually made in '96 with Mr. Happy Go Lucky and the modest hit single Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First).

A jump from Mercury to Columbia took place in 1998, after which Mellencamp released his second self-titled collection -- although this time under his actual name. The following year, a book of his previously-unknown work as a painter titled Mellencamp: Paintings and Reflections was published by Harper Collins. Other excursions beyond his usual territory included a second acting turn in the film After Image (2001) and a musical theater project undertaken with author Stephen King. A full-circle return to his cover-band beginnings was made with the release of the covers album Trouble No More in 2003.

Father: Richard Mellencamp
Mother: Marilyn Mellencamp
Brother: Joseph ("Joe")
Brother: Theodore ("Ted")
Sister: Janet
Sister: Laura
Wife: Priscilla Esterline (high school girlfriend, m. 1969, div. 1981, one daughter)
Daughter: Michelle (b. 4-Dec-1970)
Wife: Victoria Granucci ("Vicky", m. 23-May-1981, div. 1989, two daughters)
Daughter: Teddy Jo (b. 1-Jul-1981)
Daughter: Justice (b. 1985)
Wife: Elaine Irwin (model, b. 16-Aug-1969, m. 5-Sep-1992, sep. 30-Dec-2010, two sons)
Son: Hud (b. 1994)
Son: Speck Wildhorse (b. 1995)
Girlfriend: Meg Ryan (actress, together 2011-14)
Girlfriend: Christie Brinkley (model, together from 2015)

    High School: Seymour High School, Seymour, IN (1970)
    University: Indiana University Bloomington
    University: Vincennes University (1975)

    John Cougar Mellencamp
    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2008
    Grammy Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male (1982)
    Heart Attack 1994
    Risk Factors: Smoking

    Falling from Grace (21-Feb-1992)

    Tanner on Tanner (5-Oct-2004) · Himself
    Lone Star State of Mind (23-Apr-2002) · Wayne
    After Image (23-Jan-2001) · Joe MacCormack
    Madison (2001) · Voice of Mike McCormick [VOICE]
    Falling from Grace (21-Feb-1992)

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