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John Hiatt

John Hiatt's sales have never quite matched his reputation. Hiatt's songs were covered successfully by everyone from Bonnie Raitt, Ronnie Milsap, and Dr. Feelgood to Iggy Pop, Three Dog Night, and the Neville Brothers, yet it took him 13 years to reach the charts himself. Of course, it took him nearly that long to find his own style. Hiatt began his solo career in 1974, and over the next decade he ran through a number of different styles, from rock & roll to new wave pop, before he finally settled on a rootsy fusion of rock & roll, country, blues, and folk with his 1987 album Bring the Family. Though the album didn't set the charts on fire, it became his first album to reach the charts, and several of the songs on the record became hits for other artists, including Raitt and Milsap. Following its success, Hiatt became a reliable hit songwriter for other artists, and he developed a strong cult following that continued to gain strength into the mid-'90s.

While he was growing up in his hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana, Hiatt played in a number of garage bands. Initially, he was inspired by the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, and the music of those two artists would echo strongly throughout his work. Out of all the bar bands he played with in the late '60s, a group called the White Ducks was the one that received the most attention. Following his high school graduation, he moved to Nashville at the age of 18, where he landed a job as a songwriter for Tree Publishing. For the next several years, he wrote and performed at local clubs and hotels. Within a few years, his songs were being recorded by several different artists, including Conway Twitty, Tracy Nelson, and Three Dog Night, who took Hiatt's "Sure as I'm Sittin' Here" to number 16 in the summer of 1974. Eventually, his manager secured him an audition at Epic Records, and the label signed him in 1974, releasing his debut album, Hangin' Around the Observatory, later that year. Despite their critical acclaim, neither Hangin' Around the Observatory nor its 1975 follow-up, Overcoats, sold many copies, and he was dropped by the label. By the end of the year, Tree Publishing had let him go as well.

Following his failure in Nashville, Hiatt moved out to California. By the summer of 1978 he had settled in Los Angeles, where began playing in clubs, opening for folk musicians including Leo Kottke. With Kottke's assistance, Hiatt hired a new manager, Denny Bruce, who helped him secure a record contract with MCA Records. Slug Line, his first record for MCA, was released in the summer of 1979. Where his first two records were straight-ahead rock & roll and folk-rock, Slug Line was in the new wave vein of angry English singer/songwriters like Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, and Joe Jackson, as if Hiatt was vying for the role of the American angry young man. The new approach earned some strong reviews, yet it failed to generate any sales. Two Bit Monsters, his second MCA album, faced the same situation. Although it was well received critically upon its 1980 release, it made no impression on the charts, and the label dropped him.

Apart from working on Two Bit Monsters, Hiatt spent most of 1980 as a member of Ry Cooder's backing band, playing rhythm guitar on the Borderline album and touring with the guitarist. Hiatt stayed with Cooder throughout 1981, signing a new contract with Geffen Records by the end of the year. Produced by Tony Visconti (David Bowie, T. Rex), his Geffen debut All of a Sudden was released in 1982, followed by the Nick Lowe/Scott Matthews and Ron Nagel-produced Riding with the King in 1983. As with his previous records for Epic and MCA, neither of his first two Geffen releases sold well. By this time, Hiatt's personal life was beginning to spin out of control as he was sinking deep into alcoholism. Around the time he completed 1985's Warming Up to the Ice Age, his second wife committed suicide. Following the release of Warming Up to the Ice Age, Hiatt was dropped by Geffen. By the end of 1985, he had entered a rehabilitation program. During 1986, he remarried and signed a new deal with A&M Records.

For his A&M debut, Hiatt assembled a small band comprised of his former associates Ry Cooder (guitar), Nick Lowe (bass), and Jim Keltner (drums). Recorded over the course of a handful of days, the resulting album, Bring the Family, had a direct, stripped-down rootsy sound that differed greatly from his earlier albums. Upon its summer 1987 release, Bring the Family received the best reviews of his career and, for once, the reviews began to pay off, as the album turned into a cult hit, peaking at 107 on the U.S. charts; it was his first charting album. Hiatt attempted to record a follow-up with Cooder, Lowe, and Keltner, but the musicians failed to agree on the financial terms for the sessions. Undaunted, he recorded an album with John Doe, David Lindley, and Dave Mattacks, but he scrapped the completed project, deciding that the result was too forced. Hiatt's final attempt at recording the follow-up to Bring the Family was orchestrated by veteran producer Glyn Johns, who had him record with his touring band the Goners. Despite all of the behind-the-scenes troubles behind its recording, the follow-up album, Slow Turning, actually appeared rather quickly, arriving in the summer of 1988.

Slow Turning, like Bring the Family before it, received nearly unanimous positive reviews and it was fairly well received commercially, spending 31 weeks on the U.S. charts and peaking at 98. Within the next year, Hiatt successfully toured throughout America and Europe, strengthening his fan base along the way. Inspired by the success of Hiatt's two A&M albums, Geffen released the compilation Y' All Caught? The Ones That Got Away 1979-85 in 1989. That same year, other artists began digging through Hiatt's catalog of songs, most notably Bonnie Raitt, who covered "Thing Called Love" for her multi-platinum comeback album, Nick of Time.

In 1990, Hiatt returned with Stolen Moments, which was nearly as successful as Slow Turning, both critically and commercially. "Bring Back Your Love to Me," an album track from Stolen Moments that was also recorded by Earl Thomas Conley, won BMI's 1991 Country Music Award. By the time "Bring Back Your Love to Me" won that award, it had become a standard practice for artists to cover Hiatt's songs, as artists as diverse as Bob Dylan, Ronnie Milsap, Suzy Bogguss, and Iggy Pop all covered his songs in the early '90s. In 1993, Rhino Records released Love Gets Strange: The Songs of John Hiatt, which collected many of the cover versions that were recorded during the '80s and '90s.

During 1991, the group that recorded Bring the Family -- Hiatt, Cooder, Lowe, and Keltner -- re-formed as a band called Little Village, releasing their eponymous debut in early 1992. Based on the success of Bring the Family and Hiatt's A&M albums, expectations for Little Village were quite high, yet the record and its supporting tour were considered a major disappointment. Later, the individual members would agree that the band was a failure, mainly due to conflicting egos.

Hiatt decided to back away from the superstar nature of Little Village for his next album, 1993's Perfectly Good Guitar. Recorded in just two weeks with a backing band comprised of members of alternative rock bands School of Fish and Wire Train, the album was looser than any record since Bring the Family, but it didn't quite have the staying power of its two predecessors, spending only 11 weeks on the charts and peaking at number 47. The following year, he released his first live album, Hiatt Comes Alive at Budokan? Hiatt left A&M Records after the release of the record, signing with Capitol Records the following year.

Walk On, Hiatt's first Capitol album, was recorded during his supporting tour for Perfectly Good Guitar and featured guest appearances by the Jayhawks and Bonnie Raitt. The record entered the charts at 48, but slipped from there in nine weeks, indicating that his audience had settled into a dedicated cult following. Fittingly, after 1997's Little Head quickly came and went in the marketplace, Hiatt parted ways with Capitol, and his next album, 2000's Crossing Muddy Waters, was released on the established independent imprint Vanguard Records. After a second album with Vanguard, The Tiki Bar Is Open, Hiatt aligned himself with another independent label, New West, for the release of his 2003 set, Beneath This Gruff Exterior. Master of Disaster, along with CD and DVD versions of Live from Austin, TX, followed in 2005 but his 18th studio album, Same Old Man, didn't appear until 2008.

However, when The Open Road arrived early in 2010, it signified the start of a prolific period for the artist, and featured Patty Griffin collaborator Doug Lancio on guitar. Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns followed in 2010 and was recorded and produced in Nashville by Kevin Shirley (Aerosmith, the Black Crowes). Next, Mystic Pinball arrived in the fall of 2012; again produced by Shirley, it debuted at 39 on the Billboard 200. Lancio oversaw the sessions for Hiatt's subsequent album, a largely acoustic-based set entitled Terms of My Surrender, which was released by New West on July 15, 2014. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Terms Of My Surrender

1. Long Time Comin'

2. Face Of God

3. Marlene

4. Wind Don't Have To Hurry

5. Nobody Knew His Name

6. Baby's Gonna Kick

7. Nothin' I Love

8. Terms Of My Surrender

9. Here To Stay

10. Old People

11. Come Back Home

x

Track List: Mystic Pinball

1. We're Alright Now

2. Bite Marks

3. It All Comes Back Someday

4. Wood Chipper

5. My Business

6. I Just Don't Know What To Say

7. I Know How To Lose You

8. You're All The Reason I Need

9. One Of Them Damn Days

10. No Wicked Grin

11. Give It Up

12. Blues Can't Even Find Me

x

Track List: Dirty Jeans And Mudslide Hymns

1. Damn This Town

2. Til I Get My Lovin' Back

3. I Love That Girl

4. All The Way Under

5. Don't Wanna Leave You Now

6. Detroit Made

7. Hold On For Your Love

8. Train To Birmingham

9. Down Around My Place

10. Adios To California

11. When New York Had Her Heart Broke

x

Track List: The Open Road

1. The Open Road

2. Haulin

3. Go Down Swingin

4. Like A Freight Train

5. My Baby

6. Homeland

7. Wonder Of Love

8. What Kind Of Man

9. Movin On

10. Fireball Roberts

11. Carry You Back Home

x

Track List: Same Old Man

1. Old Days

2. Love You Again

3. On With You

4. Hurt My Baby

5. What Love Can Do

6. Ride My Pony

7. Cherry Red

8. Our Time

9. Two Hearts

10. Same Old Man

11. Let's Give This Love A Try

x

Track List: Master Of Disaster

1. Master Of Disaster

2. Howlin' Down The Cumberland

3. Thunderbird

4. Wintertime Blues

5. When My Love Crosses Over

6. Love's Not Where We Thought We Left It

7. Ain't Ever Goin' Back

8. Cold River

9. Find You At Last

10. Old School

11. Back On The Corner

x

Track List: Anthology

Disc 1

1. Sure As I'm Sittin' Here

2. Hangin' Around The Observatory

4. Washable Ink

5. Slug Line

6. Radio Girl

7. Pink Bedroom

8. It Hasn't Happened Yet

10. Doll Hospital

11. My Edge Of The Razor

12. Riding With The King

13. She Loves The Jerk

14. I Don't Even Try

15. The Love That Harms

17. When We Ran

18. The Usual

19. She Said The Same Things To Me

20. Lipstick Sunset

21. Thank You Girl

22. Have A Little Faith In Me

Disc 2

1. Memphis In The Meantime

2. Thing Called Love

3. Tennessee Plates

4. Slow Turning

5. Drive South

6. Feels Like Rain

7. Paper Thin

9. Real Fine Love

10. Perfectly Good Guitar

11. Buffalo River Home

12. Angel eyes

13. Cry Love

14. Shredding The Document

17. Crossing Muddy Waters

18. Take It Down

x

Track List: The Tiki Bar Is Open

1. Everybody Went Low

2. Hangin' Round Here

3. All The Lilacs In Ohio

4. My Old Friend

5. I Know A Place

6. Something Broken

7. Rock Of Your Love

8. I'll Never Get Over You

9. The Tiki Bar Is Open

10. Come Home To You

11. Farther Stars

x

Track List: Crossing Muddy Waters

1. Lincoln Town

2. Crossing Muddy Waters

3. What Do We Do Now

4. Only The Song Survives

5. Lift Up Every Stone

6. Take It Down

7. Gone

8. Take It Back

9. Mr. Stanley

10. God's Golden Eyes

11. Before I Go

x

Track List: The Best Of

1. Have A Little Faith In Me

2. Thing Called Love

3. Riding With The King

4. Cry Love

5. Slow Turning

7. Memphis In The Meantime

8. Child Of The Wild Blue Yonder

9. Drive South

10. Angel Eyes

11. Buffalo River Home

12. Feels Like Rain

13. Love In Flames

14. Perfectly Good Guitar

15. Tennessee Plates

16. Take Off Your Uniform

17. Don't Know Much About Love

x

Track List: Walk On

1. Cry Love

2. You Must Go

3. Walk On

4. Good As She Could Be

5. The River Knows Your Name

6. Native Son

7. Dust Down A Country Road

8. Ethylene

9. I Can't Wait

10. Shredding The Document

11. Wrote It Down And Burned It

12. Your Love Is My Rest

13. Friend Of Mine

14. Mile High

x

Track List: Slow Turning

1. Drive South

2. Trudy And Dave

3. Tennessee Plates

4. Icy Blue Heart

5. Sometime Other Than Now

6. Georgia Rae

7. Ride Along

8. Slow Turning

9. It'll Come To You

10. Is Anybody There?

11. Paper Thin

12. Feels Like Rain

x

Track List: Bring The Family

1. Memphis In The Meantime

2. Alone In The Dark

3. Thing Called Love

4. Lipstick Sunset

5. Have A Little Faith In Me

6. Thank You Girl

7. Tip Of My Tongue

8. Your Dad Did

9. Stood Up

10. Learning How To Love You

x

Track List: Damn This Town (Single)

1. Damn This Town

x

Track List: Greatest Hits

1. Memphis In The Meantime

2. Perfectly Good Guitar

3. Thing Called Love

4. Slow Turning

5. Real Fine Love

6. Through Your Hands

7. Buffalo River Home

8. Feels Like Rain

9. Tennessee Plates

10. Thank You Girl

11. Drive South

12. Lipstick Sunset

13. Child Of The Wild Blue Yonder

14. Paper Thin

15. The Rest Of The Dream

16. Have A Little Faith In Me

17. Something Wild

18. Angel Eyes

x

Track List: We're Alright Now (Single)

1. We're Alright Now

Comments

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Great lyrics Great artist
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You r correct p burge.
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Bring the Family, Slow Turning, & Stolen Moments are all classic recordings.
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Been a fan of his for decades. Love his current band The Combo. Have to say, wasn't a fan of his last, Terms of My Surrender; first ever Hiatt album I'd give a thumbs down to. But he's an Americana treasure. Long may he run.
Report as inappropriate
John's tremendous; been a fan for decades. Was NOT a fan of his last, Terms of My Surrender. First album of his I'd ever given a thumbs down. But I'm a fan of his forever. His current band The Combo is as good as any as he's ever had, and that's the saying something.
Report as inappropriate
John is the greatest songwriter/ the man can sing and play a very good guitarist . Have seen him several times live. Have turned him on to a many of friends. ROCK ON John Hiatt !
Report as inappropriate
I just love this man so much!
❤️he deserves e more credit!!!!
Come on friends!!! Check him OUT!!!
0;o)))
Report as inappropriate
I love his music. Just found him last year!! Saw him play with Taj Mahall, in Lowell MA. How lucky am I?
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Love Buffalo River Home.
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Grew up listening to John, he still brings tears to my eyes in some of his songs. He's one of the best songwriters and artists I've ever known.
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His best song....I think.....Ha v e a Little Faith in Me. Live forever John
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John 'THE man' Hiatt
LOVE him & his unique style ....been a fan for life
JUST saw him for the 2nd time!
An AMAZING musician & soul...
The Combos Lead guitarist DOUG is a virtuoso in HIS own right!!!
Keep UP the great work!!
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I love his version of Have a Little Faith in Me. It's wonderful. I love the music he did with the Neville Brothers, too.
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John is a true great writer and poet. Very underrated a real artist
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madand2e-s
Great Song and Writer!
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newmoon55
yeh he's a good man, you can tell. Might not always be fun to be him but he lifts my soul; someone else gets it and the sound is true . . . so thanx!
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rabbott847
Fargo in a song ....
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Just for good measure stick it bobo
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I love this guy and his bluesy voice. one of my all time favorites. I love sitting back throwing back a cold one listening to my man John.....
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tmsinc, why would you give an obvious idiot music-hater such an endearing nickname? I've quite a lot of others, but I won't stoop, or fall to ....y'know?
Report as inappropriate
My discovery of John Hiatt was one of my finest rare finds
Report as inappropriate
tmsinc007
bobo, did you bump your head? This guy is a songwriters Songwriter! 1 of the most unique musicians ever. Hes an American Treasure for gawds sake.
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perfectly good guitar
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What a great writer and performer! I try and never miss a show when comes to KC. No.
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JH is one of the best kept secrets for decades
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saw john in Albany, ny what a terrific nite of great guitar and lyrics
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orcatadj
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Great showmen Super Writer!!!
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Now there's an artist!!!
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Just what the hell do you like bob.
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I saw him a few years back in a guitar-pull type show with Lyle Lovett and Guy Clark in Cleveland. It was an outstanding show!
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Hey Pandora! How about Have a Little Faith in me.
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He is one of those musicians that when you first see him hear him you don't forget him. Saw him with Ry Cooder in 70 or 80 and wondered "who the hell is that!" Then I started listening to his albums. Great musician performer who deserves a Grammy.
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thanx 4 NOT letting me listen 2 faith in me --J. Hiatt
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steve.stodda r d 3 2 6
Bob, you are clueless
Report as inappropriate
Feels
Like
Real
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bob the hater strikes again. Sounds like a bunch of other artists? The guy is as unique as they come. Greatest songwriter ever.
Report as inappropriate
His sales have never matched his reputation because he sounds like a bunch of other artists and isn't that interesting to listen to.
Report as inappropriate
Very unappreciate d artist. I'm addicted. The voice. The music. Unmistakeabl e !
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jay863
cpotter- I've been telling my friends that for the last 25 years. He's by far my favorite artist.
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cpotter110
Eleven paragraphs on an artist I have never heard of. I guess this is more of an indictment of my musical knowledge that the quality of this artist. I need to expand my palette.
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robert.htsi
John puts on a great show! Guess we are part of his cult following now..Seeing him in Greenville, SC next week - cant wait!
Report as inappropriate
saw JH in enfield ct last week. good show, but would have much rather heard tennessee plates than thing called love.
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Have A Little Faith In Me... what an absolutely beautiful tune!
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One of my favorite singer/songw r i t e r s ever!
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Mr. Hiatt has laid down so much excellent music over the years... such a brilliant tunesmith... a real credit to americana
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Love him! He can come over and drink some coffee and miss his feet on my cold tile floor! He is simply wonderful heart and soul!
Report as inappropriate
Yea i can feel it brother. Still remember the day i bought slow turning.
Report as inappropriate
Just played 'Hangin' Around the Observatory' from my archives. Doug Yankus( a person I went to H.S. with) plays lead guitar on some of the tracks...evi d e n t on Full Moon.
Report as inappropriate
i have played the 'slow turning' album ,since it's released, so much that my grand kids know the songs. the songs never get old and his style of singing and playing soothe all the while producing tears....for me john hiatt is genius songwriter.. . . ' . . c a n ya feel it...'
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