John Hiatt

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John Hiatt
John Hiatt SXSW 2010 Ron Baker.JPG
John Hiatt at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas (2010)
Background information
Birth nameJohn Robert Hiatt
Born (1952-08-20) August 20, 1952 (age 66)
Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.
Genres Heartland rock, blues rock, folk rock, country, Americana
Occupation(s)Singer-songwriter, musician
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, piano, keyboards
Years active1972–present
Labels MCA, A&M, Geffen, Vanguard, New West Records

John Robert Hiatt (born August 20, 1952) is an American singer-songwriter and musician. [1] [2] He has played a variety of musical styles on his albums, including new wave, blues, and country. Hiatt has been nominated for nine Grammy Awards [3] and has been awarded a variety of other distinctions in the music industry. He remains one of the most respected and influential American singer-songwriters. [4]

New wave is a genre of pop-oriented rock music popular in the late 1970s and the 1980s with ties to mid-1970s punk rock. New wave moved away from traditional blues and rock and roll sounds to create rock music or pop music (later) that incorporated disco, mod, and electronic music. Initially new wave was similar to punk rock, before becoming a distinct genre. It subsequently engendered subgenres and fusions, including synth-pop.

Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1870s by African Americans from roots in African musical traditions, African-American work songs, and spirituals. Blues incorporated spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts, chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads. The blues form, ubiquitous in jazz, rhythm and blues and rock and roll, is characterized by the call-and-response pattern, the blues scale and specific chord progressions, of which the twelve-bar blues is the most common. Blue notes, usually thirds, fifths or sevenths flattened in pitch are also an essential part of the sound. Blues shuffles or walking bass reinforce the trance-like rhythm and form a repetitive effect known as the groove.

Country music, also known as country and western, and hillbilly music, is a genre of popular music that originated in the southern United States in the early 1920s. It takes its roots from genres such as American folk music and blues.


Hiatt was working as a songwriter for Tree International, a record label in Nashville, when his song "Sure As I'm Sittin' Here" was covered by Three Dog Night. [1] The song became a Top 40 hit, earning Hiatt a recording contract with Epic Records. Since then he has released 22 studio albums, two compilation albums and one live album.

"Sure As I'm Sittin' Here" is a song written and originally performed by John Hiatt. Hiatt released the original version of the song as a single in February, 1974, and included it on his debut album Hangin' Around the Observatory. Hiatt's version of "Sure As I'm Sittin' Here" failed to chart.

Three Dog Night American band

Three Dog Night is an American rock band. They formed in 1967 with founding members consisting of vocalists Danny Hutton, Cory Wells, and Chuck Negron. This lineup was soon augmented by Jimmy Greenspoon (keyboards), Joe Schermie (bass), Michael Allsup (guitar), and Floyd Sneed (drums). The band registered 21 Billboard Top 40 hits between 1969 and 1975. Because Three Dog Night recorded many songs written by outside songwriters, they helped introduce mainstream audiences to writers such as Paul Williams and Hoyt Axton.

Epic Records American record label

Epic Records is an American record label owned by Sony Music Entertainment, a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America, Inc., the North American division of Japanese conglomerate Sony. The label was founded predominantly as a jazz and classical music label in 1953, but later expanded its scope to include a more diverse range of genres, including pop, R&B, rock, and hip hop. Epic Records has released music by artists including Glenn Miller, Tammy Wynette, George Michael, The Yardbirds, Donovan, Shakin Stevens, Europe, Cheap Trick, Meat Loaf, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ted Nugent, Shakira, Sly & the Family Stone, The Hollies, Celine Dion, ABBA, Culture Club, Boston, Dave Clark Five, Gloria Estefan, Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, and Michael Jackson. Along with Arista, Columbia and RCA Records, Epic is one of Sony Music Entertainment's four flagship record labels.

A variety of artists in multiple genres have covered his songs, including Aaron Neville, B.B. King, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, Chaka Khan, Dave Edmunds, Delbert McClinton, Desert Rose Band, Emmylou Harris, Eric Clapton, Iggy Pop, I'm with Her, Jeff Healey, Jewel, Jimmy Buffett, Joan Baez, Joe Bonamassa, Joe Cocker, Keith Urban, Linda Ronstadt, Mandy Moore, Maria Muldaur, Nick Lowe, Paula Abdul, Paulini, Rodney Crowell, Rosanne Cash, Ry Cooder, Suzy Bogguss, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Searchers, Three Dog Night, Willie Nelson, Asleep at the Wheel, and Willy DeVille. The Dutch singer/songwriter Ilse DeLange recorded the album Dear John with nine of his songs.

Aaron Neville American vocalist and musician

Aaron Joseph Neville is an American R&B and soul vocalist and musician. He has had four platinum albums and four Top 10 hits in the United States, including three that went to #1 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart. His debut single, from 1966, was #1 on the Soul chart for five weeks.

B.B. King American blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter

Riley B. King, known professionally as B.B. King, was an American blues singer, electric guitarist, songwriter, and record producer. King introduced a sophisticated style of soloing based on fluid string bending and shimmering vibrato that influenced many later electric blues guitarists.

Bob Dylan American singer-songwriter, musician, author, and artist

Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter, author, and visual artist who has been a major figure in popular culture for more than fifty years. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s, when songs such as "Blowin' in the Wind" (1963) and "The Times They Are a-Changin'" (1964) became anthems for the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war movement. His lyrics during this period incorporated a wide range of political, social, philosophical, and literary influences, defied pop-music conventions and appealed to the burgeoning counterculture.

Early life

John Hiatt at the Zelt-Musik-Festival 2015 in Freiburg, Germany John Hiatt and The Combo ZMF 2015 jm43231.jpg
John Hiatt at the Zelt-Musik-Festival 2015 in Freiburg, Germany

Hiatt was born in 1952 to Ruth and Robert Hiatt, the sixth of seven children in a Roman Catholic family from Indianapolis. When he was nine years old, Hiatt's 21-year-old brother Michael died by suicide. Only two years later, his father died after a long illness. [5] To escape the stress of his early life, Hiatt watched IndyCar racing and listened to Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, and the blues. In his youth, Hiatt reports that he and several others stole a Ford Thunderbird, a crime for which he was caught by the owners but got away with, posing as a hitchhiker. He learned to play the guitar when he was eleven, and began his musical career in Indianapolis, Indiana, as a teenager. [6] He played in a variety of local clubs, most notably the Hummingbird. Hiatt played with a variety of bands, including The Four-Fifths and John Lynch & the Hangmen.

Suicide intentional act of causing ones own death

Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Mental disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse—including alcoholism and the use of benzodiazepines—are risk factors. Some suicides are impulsive acts due to stress, such as from financial difficulties, troubles with relationships, or bullying. Those who have previously attempted suicide are at a higher risk for future attempts. Effective suicide prevention efforts include limiting access to methods of suicide—such as firearms, drugs, and poisons; treating mental disorders and substance misuse; proper media reporting of suicide; and improving economic conditions. Even though crisis hotlines are common, there is little evidence for their effectiveness.

IndyCar Auto racing sanctioning body for North American open wheel racing

INDYCAR, LLC, is an American-based auto racing sanctioning body for Indy car racing and other disciplines of open wheel car racing. The organization sanctions four racing series: the premier IndyCar Series with its centerpiece the Indianapolis 500, and developmental series Indy Lights, the Pro Mazda Championship and the U.S. F2000 National Championship, which are all a part of The Road To Indy. IndyCar is recognized as a member organization of the FIA through ACCUS.

Elvis Presley American singer and actor

Elvis Aaron Presley, also known mononymously as Elvis, was an American singer, musician, and actor. Regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century, he is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King".


He moved to Nashville, Tennessee, when he was 18 years old and got a job as a songwriter for the Tree-Music Publishing Company for $25 a week. [6] Hiatt, who was unable to read or write scores, had to record all 250 songs he wrote for the company. He also began playing with the band White Duck, as one of three singer-songwriters within the group. White Duck had already recorded one album before Hiatt joined. He wrote and performed two songs on their second album, In Season, one of which was the hit "Train to Birmingham" (1972). Hiatt performed live in many clubs around Nashville with White Duck and as a solo act.

Nashville, Tennessee State capital and consolidated city-county in Tennessee, United States

Nashville is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Tennessee. The city is the county seat of Davidson County and is located on the Cumberland River. The city's population ranks 24th in the U.S. According to 2017 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, the total consolidated city-county population stood at 691,243. The "balance" population, which excludes semi-independent municipalities within Davidson County, was 667,560 in 2017.

Tennessee State of the United States of America

Tennessee is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. Tennessee is the 36th largest and the 16th most populous of the 50 United States. Tennessee is bordered by eight states with Kentucky to the north, Virginia to the northeast, North Carolina to the east, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi to the south, Arkansas to the west, and Missouri to the northwest. The Appalachian Mountains dominate the eastern part of the state, and the Mississippi River forms the state's western border. Nashville is the state's capital and largest city, with a 2017 population of 667,560 and a 2017 metro population of 1,903,045. Tennessee's second largest city is Memphis, which had a population of 652,236 in 2017.

Singer-songwriter musician who writes, composes and sings

Singer-songwriters are musicians who write, compose, and perform their own musical material, including lyrics and melodies.

Early solo career (1974–78)

Hiatt met Don Ellis of Epic Records in 1973, and received a record deal, releasing his first single, "We Make Spirit", later that year. That same year Hiatt wrote the song, "Sure As I'm Sitting Here," which was recorded by Three Dog Night, [1] and went to number 16 on the Billboard chart in 1974.

Don Ellis American jazz musician

Donald Johnson Ellis was an American jazz trumpeter, drummer, composer, and bandleader. He is best known for his extensive musical experimentation, particularly in the area of time signatures. Later in his life he worked as a film composer, contributing a score to 1971's The French Connection and 1973's The Seven-Ups.

<i>Billboard</i> (magazine) American music magazine

Billboard is an American entertainment media brand owned by the Billboard-Hollywood Reporter Media Group, a division of Eldridge Industries. It publishes pieces involving news, video, opinion, reviews, events, and style, and is also known for its music charts, including the Hot 100 and Billboard 200, tracking the most popular songs and albums in different genres. It also hosts events, owns a publishing firm, and operates several TV shows.

A record chart, also called a music chart, is a ranking of recorded music according to certain criteria during a given period of time. Many different criteria are used in worldwide charts, often in combination. These include record sales, the amount of radio airplay, the number of downloads, and the amount of streaming activity.

In 1974 he released Hangin' Around the Observatory , which was a critical success but a commercial failure. A year later, Overcoats was released, and when it also failed to sell, Epic released Hiatt from his contract. [1] For the next four years he was without a recording contract. During this time his style evolved from country-rock to new wave-influenced rock in the style of Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and Graham Parker.

MCA/Geffen years (1979–1986)

Hiatt was picked up by the MCA label in 1979. He released two albums for the label – Slug Line (1979) and Two Bit Monsters (1980) – neither of which met with commercial success. He received a few good reviews for these albums by critics in the Netherlands. He performed at Paradiso in Amsterdam for the first time in 1979 (opening for Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes) and came back often and built a solid fan base. In 1982, "Across the Borderline", written by Hiatt with Ry Cooder and Jim Dickinson, appeared on the soundtrack to the motion picture "The Border", sung by country star Freddy Fender. The song would later be covered on albums by Willie Nelson, Paul Young, Rubén Blades and Willy DeVille, among others, as well as by Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan in concert. Hiatt was signed to Geffen (which would later absorb MCA) in 1982, where he recorded three diverse albums from 1982 to 1985. The first, All of a Sudden , was produced by Tony Visconti, [1] and featured use of keyboards and synthesizers; his future albums combined country and soul influences. Riding With the King appeared in 1983, produced by Scott Mathews, Ron Nagle and Nick Lowe. [1] Hiatt began making "critics choice" lists and building a large European following. The title track of Riding With the King (taken from an odd dream Scott Mathews had) was re-recorded two decades later by Eric Clapton and B.B. King and went double platinum.

During this period, Rosanne Cash covered several Hiatt compositions, taking "It Hasn't Happened Yet" to the Top 20 on the country charts. In 1983, Cash would duet with Hiatt on his "The Way We Make a Broken Heart" produced by Mathews and Nagle. When Geffen failed to release the single, Cash re-recorded it in 1987 and it went to No. 1 on the US country charts. It was during this time that Asleep At The Wheel also covered the song. Ricky Nelson also covered "It Hasn't Happened Yet" on his 1981 album Playing to Win.

Hiatt recorded a duet with Elvis Costello, a cover version of the Spinners' song, "Living A Little, Laughing A Little", which appeared on Warming Up to the Ice Age . [1] Shortly after its release, Bob Dylan covered Hiatt's song "The Usual", which had appeared on the soundtrack to the film, Hearts of Fire . However, Geffen dropped Hiatt from the label after Ice Age failed to chart. [1]

Success (1987–1989)

Hiatt finally came into success in 1987, when he released his first big hit, Bring the Family . For the album, Hiatt had a backing band consisting of Ry Cooder, Nick Lowe, and Jim Keltner. [1] Most of the songs on the album have since been extensively covered, especially "Have a Little Faith in Me," which has been covered by a number of artists, including Joe Cocker, Delbert McClinton, Jewel, Bill Frisell, Mandy Moore and Bon Jovi; and "Memphis in the Meantime", which has been covered by Carl Perkins and Gregg Allman. "Thank You Girl" was a moderate radio hit, but nothing that would garner Hiatt national attention, although the B-side of the single featured a non-album duet with Loudon Wainwright III on a cover of the Temptations’ hit "My Girl" (Hiatt returned the favor on the B-side of Wainwright's single "Your Mother and I"). Most notably, Bonnie Raitt would bring "Thing Called Love" to No. 11 on the US charts with her 1989 release, Nick of Time .

Following Bring the Family, Hiatt had a string of nine straight studio albums hit the Billboard 200.

In 1988, he returned to the studio to record Slow Turning , which would be his first album to hit the upper half of the Billboard 200. [1] It also featured his only top ten chart single, the title track, which hit No. 8 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, and "Tennessee Plates", which was used in the soundtrack of the Ridley Scott directed and Academy Award winning film Thelma and Louise in 1991. In 1989, The Jeff Healey Band covered the Hiatt-penned song "Angel Eyes" and took it to the Top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100.

1990s and beyond

Hiatt solo in 2010 Hiatt.jpg
Hiatt solo in 2010

In 1992, Cooder, Keltner, and Lowe again backed up Hiatt, but this time they gave themselves a band name, Little Village, [1] a reference to a Sonny Boy Williamson II song. Expectations for the Little Village album were high, but the album failed to even chart as high as Hiatt's last solo album, and the group disbanded after an only moderately successful tour. [1]

In 1993, Hiatt recorded Perfectly Good Guitar with members of alternative rock groups School of Fish and Wire Train. [1] Hiatt recorded the album with producer Matt Wallace, who had worked most prominently with Faith No More, a band that Hiatt's 15-year-old son Rob had recommended for him. [7] It was Hiatt's highest peaking album at No. 47, but again was still not the true commercial breakthrough A&M expected.

In 1993, Love Gets Strange: The Songs of John Hiatt, a compilation album of covers of Hiatt's songs was released. This was followed by an album of original covers Rollin' into Memphis: Songs of John Hiatt in 2000, and a second compilation album with a few originals, It'll Come To You...The Songs of John Hiatt, in 2003.

In 1994, Hiatt released Hiatt Comes Alive at Budokan? , his first official live album and his last album with A&M Records. [1] A CD and DVD of his performance on Austin City Limits was released in 2005. Hiatt had previously released two promotional live promotional "official bootlegs", Riot with Hiatt in 1985, and Live at the Hiatt in 1993, as well as the EP Live at the Palace in 1991.

Hiatt received his first Grammy nomination in 1995 for his album Walk On. Hiatt's next few albums never gained any momentum on the charts, and he saw little change in his fanbase in the late 1990s, indicating a dedicated following. In 2000, Hiatt released his first independent album on Vanguard Records, Crossing Muddy Waters , which saw a heavy influence of bluegrass in his music. Later that year, he was named songwriter/artist of the year at the Nashville Music Awards. In 2001, Crossing Muddy Waters was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album, with Davey Faragher and David Immerglück as his only accompanists.

In 2002, Hiatt performed several songs for the soundtrack of the Disney's The Country Bears movie, representing the voice of the lead singer. The movie also featured covers of Hiatt songs by Bonnie Raitt and Don Henley.

Hiatt's next album, Master of Disaster , was released on June 21, 2005. The album was produced by Jim Dickinson, and Hiatt was backed up by the bassist David Hood and several members of the North Mississippi Allstars. The album achieved modest sales, becoming a top ten independent album, but failed to achieve significant commercial success.

On February 12, 2008, during a concert with Lyle Lovett at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Hiatt said that his new album would be titled Same Old Man. It was released on May 27, 2008.

On July 18, 2008 Hiatt performed at Ravinia Park in Highland Park, Illinois, with his daughter, Lilly.

On September 17, 2008, he appeared in Levon Helm's Ramble at the Ryman singing "The Weight" at the historic Ryman Auditorium, in Nashville.

In March 2010, Hiatt released The Open Road.

Hiatt appeared as a performer in The House of Blues in the sixth episode of the second season of Treme, with the episode title taken from his song Feels Like Rain. The episode aired May 29, 2011. [8]

Hiatt presented an Americana Lifetime Achievement Award to Bonnie Raitt on Sept. 12, 2012. The two performed "Thing Called Love" together at the ceremony.

On September 25, 2012, Hiatt released Mystic Pinball, his 21st studio album.

Also on September 25, 2012, Joe Bonamassa released in the US Beacon Theatre: Live From New York, which included Hiatt playing "Down Around My Place" and "I Know A Place".

On July 15, 2014, Hiatt released Terms of My Surrender, his 22nd studio album. It earned him two Grammy nominations.

On October 12, 2018 Hiatt released The Eclipse Sessions, an LP via New West Records. The album, his first in four years, was recorded over four days in the summer of 2017, a period that included the August 21st solar eclipse. Hiatt recorded the album as part of a trio of guitar, bass (Patrick O’Hearn), and drums (Kenneth Blevins).

Personal life

Hiatt has a step-son, Robert, two daughters, singer-songwriter Lilly Hiatt, and Georgia Rae Hiatt. [9] [10]

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed John Hiatt among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire. [11]


Hiatt and his backing band, The Combo, 2012 John Hiatt & The Combo.JPG
Hiatt and his backing band, The Combo, 2012


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John Hiatt discography

The John Hiatt discography covers material that he recorded from 1974 to the present day. He has recorded over 24 albums, among them two live albums.

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"The Way We Make a Broken Heart" is a song written by John Hiatt. It was recorded by Ry Cooder in 1980 on his album Borderline. "The Way We Make a Broken Heart" was covered by both John Hiatt and Rosanne Cash in 1983 as a duet. The single was produced by Scott Mathews and Ron Nagle, however, Geffen Records did not release the single. Willy DeVille performed this song twice in Berlin 2002; once in an unplugged version and once with his electric band. This is documented on his 2002 album Live in Berlin.


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  3. "John Hiatt". 2018-05-22. Retrieved 2018-08-31.
  4. "John Hiatt". 2007-04-22. Retrieved 2012-04-10.
  5. "Rocker John Hiatt: As Good As His Words – New York Times". 1989-03-12. Retrieved 2014-07-10.
  6. 1 2 "Rolling Stone Online: John Hiatt Interview". 1997-06-29. Retrieved 2014-07-10.
  7. Hopkins, Renee (March 3, 1994). "Joys of Bust-'em-up Rock". The Dallas Morning News .
  8. Walker, Dave (May 29, 2011). "'Treme' explained: 'Feels Like Rain'". The Times-Picayune .
  9. Steinberg, Jacques (19 October 2008). "The Lyrics? Pretty Familiar. The Performer? Less So". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  10. Margasak, Peter (3 October 2017). "Lilly Hiatt brings her keen observational powers to a breakup on the new Trinity Lane". Chicago Reader .
  11. Rosen, Jody (25 June 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
Preceded by
Willie Nelson
AMA Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting
Succeeded by
John Fogerty