Tragic Details About John Mellencamp

Tragic Details About John Mellencamp


Everybody can relate to the people and themes
in John Mellencamp’s music. That’s because he’s a real guy who’s lived
a few lifetimes’ worth of drama and struggle. Here’s a look into the tragic real-life story
that shaped the life and work of John Mellencamp. Mellencamp is lucky he made it out of his
childhood alive. Shortly after his birth in 1951, he underwent
surgery for spina bifida, a birth defect that leaves an opening in the spinal column that
can make the spinal cord extend outside the body and leave a growth. That was usually a fatal condition back in
the early fifties, but a new surgical technique saved young Mellencamp’s life. More than sixty years later, in 2014, he met
the surgeon who performed the operation, Dr. Robert Heimburger. “He remembered it ’cause I was the first one
they’d ever done.” According to Mellencamp, Heimburger and associates
performed operations on three infant spina bifida patients at Riley Children’s Hospital
in Indianapolis. “One died on the table. Another girl lived, I think, ’til she was
14, and then she died. And then me.” Mellencamp’s songs are often from the point
of view of the underdog. They’re about hardworking individuals from
small towns trying to get a leg up to be able to afford a little pink house. That’s a struggle Mellencamp witnessed in
his hometown of Seymour, Indiana, and within his own family. His father Richard met his mother when he
literally ran into her on the street one day. As Mellencamp told The New York Times in 1987,
Richard and his older brother Joe were running from cops after roughing up four guys in retaliation
for a beating Richard had gotten earlier. Those Mellencamps were playing the detestable
part in which the community had cast them. As Mellencamp explained, “For as far back as anyone can care to remember,
there has been a rigid, petty small-town class system in Seymour.” The top of that system was occupied by people
who became rich during the Industrial Revolution, while the rest were farmers. The singer’s great-great-grandfather moved
from Germany to Indiana in 1851 and started the family farm, which had to be sold a generation
later. That left John’s grandfather Harry to drop
out of school in the third grade to work as a carpenter. When Harry went to register to vote, the clerk
laughed at him and made fun of his name. As John put it, “We were always hearing talk that, ‘You low-class
Mellencamps will never amount to anything.'” At the age of 18, Mellencamp was dating a
woman three years older than him named Priscilla Esterline. When she became pregnant in 1970, the couple
tried to do the traditional thing and get married, but under Indiana law at the time,
18-year-old Mellencamp wasn’t old enough to do so without parental permission. But that’s when the couple hit upon a solution. They eloped to Kentucky, the next state over. That marriage lasted a little over a decade,
through Mellencamp’s early career hurdles, stumbles, and dead-ends. But it couldn’t survive when he fell for another
woman. After seeing a photo of professional TV extra
Vicky Granucci at a friend’s house, Mellencamp became infatuated; when they finally met,
it turned out they actually had fantastic chemistry. He and Esterline quickly split up so that
Mellencamp could marry Granucci, who notably stars as Diane in Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane”
video. Two months after they made it official, they
welcomed their first daughter, Teddi Jo, who would later go on to become a cast member
on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. After he married Granucci, Mellencamp’s history
of tumultuous love affairs still wasn’t over, as he would once again fall for a new woman,
leave his current wife, marry the new gal, and put her in a music video. This time it was Elaine Irwin, whom he met
when she was the cover model for his 1991 album Whenever We Wanted. Ten weeks after their first face-to-face,
they were engaged, and in 1992 they married. She’s also the star of his video for “Get
a Leg Up.” This third marriage lasted a long time, almost
18 years. But it nonetheless fell apart as surely as
the first two. “Apparently women just don’t like me very
much. That’s all I can say about that.” In 2011, not long after his divorce was finalized,
Mellencamp struck up an on-again, off-again relationship with movie star Meg Ryan, a coupling
that apparently left the rocker a little wounded. When he appeared on Howard Stern’s radio show
after splitting with the actress in 2014, he revealed, “Oh, women hate me. I loved Meg Ryan. She hates me to death.” But all was not lost forever. After a year-long relationship with model
Christie Brinkley, Mellencamp and Ryan reunited and in November 2018, they got engaged. “How did you figure out at 67 now, let’s do
this thing for real?” “I don’t know what you mean.” While John Mellencamp suffered from a potentially
fatal birth defect as a baby, his third child similarly faced an uncertain future. In 1985, Mellencamp and his wife at the time,
Vicky Granucci, awaited the arrival of their second child together. While she was pregnant, Granucci fell ill
with chicken pox, and doctors informed the expectant parents that the illness might result
in fetal deformity. Mellencamp told The New York Times, “We were so terrified, maybe the way my parents
were with my spinal problems at birth.” Mellencamp also noted that he and Granucci
were so afraid of losing their child that they didn’t decide on a name until the day
Granucci gave birth. He told the Times, “As the doctor began the delivery, we decided
that if there was any justice in the world, the baby would be healthy.” In the end, she was just fine, and accordingly,
since there appeared to be justice in the world, Mellencamp and Granucci named their
new daughter “Justice.” Mellencamp has left alcohol and marijuana
behind, but he’s not a man totally devoid of vice, as he’s an enthusiastic lifelong
smoker. As he revealed in a 2018 interview with CBS
News, he started puffing on cigarettes at the tender age of 10, and he doesn’t think
more than five decades of the habit have been all that bad for him, and he’s got a bit of
a theory about that. “I believe that it’s the combination of cigarettes
and alcohol that get people, the two of them combined.” That theory may not carry too much weight,
though, considering that Mellencamp suffered a heart attack in 1994 at the relatively young
age of 42. He was on tour, and he didn’t feel well, so
he went back to his hometown of Bloomington, Indiana, to consult with doctors there. He later spoke about the health scare during
an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, mentioning that when the doctor
told him he was having a heart attack, he went nuts and called him, quote, “everything
in the book.” “Then he said, ‘John, you can say whatever
you want to me or act any way you want, but a first-year medical student can tell you
you’ve had a heart attack,’ and I went, ‘Oh.'” Nevertheless, Mellencamp didn’t entirely quit
smoking after that. He just cut down from four packs a day to
one. “I’m just gonna, this is the number for the
Surgeon General.” Mellencamp’s road to fame and fortune as an
authentic rock ‘n’ roll star wasn’t traditional or short. By the time he scored his first top 30 hit
in the United States with “I Need a Lover” in 1979, he was almost 30 years old, which
is fairly long in the tooth for the youth-oriented music industry. And that came after he’d already recorded
two misbegotten albums that each failed in their own unique way. In 1975, Mellencamp, tired of playing in go-nowhere
bar bands, moved to New York City to make it as a rock star. He found a champion in David Bowie’s former
manager Tony DeFries. Bowie had just unamicably parted ways with
DeFries, and so the manager tried to position Mellencamp as the next Bowie, by way of Bruce
Springsteen. Saddled with the silly stage name of Johnny
Cougar, Mellencamp released his first album, the DeFries-produced Chestnut Street Incident,
in 1976. It consisted primarily of covers of familiar
tunes like “Jailhouse Rock” and “Hit the Road Jack.” It sold only a paltry 12,000 copies. Afterwards, Mellencamp’s label, MCA, refused
to release his next album, The Kid Inside, and then dropped him entirely. Mellencamp experienced some hard-rocking success
with the release of his albums American Fool and Uh-Huh in 1982 and 1983, respectively. Then he doubled down on the social commentary
and soul-searching with 1985’s Scarecrow and 1987’s The Lonesome Jubilee. Among the biggest sellers of his career, they
went on to be certified five times platinum and three times platinum, respectively. But the success of those albums bears a painful
origin, as Mellencamp created Scarecrow and The Lonesome Jubilee to cope with the deaths
of loved ones and how his family shaped him. As he told The New York Times in 1987, “Let’s face it, you are your parents, whether
any of us like it or not…The Lonesome Jubilee, like Scarecrow and the rest of my best stuff,
is about me and my family tree grappling against both the world and our own inner goddamned
whirlwind.” His grandfather, with whom he was incredibly
close, died of lung cancer in 1983. Mellencamp shared with the Times, “Just before his death, he called everybody
into his bedroom, and although he wasn’t a religious person he said, ‘You know, I’m having
a real bad beating of a time with the Devil’…It stopped me cold to see my Grandpa so scared. Six hours later, he was gone.” After that death, John Mellencamp’s uncle
Joe, became, quote, “the kindest soul you could imagine.” But then he died, too. Mellencamp has revealed that the song “Paper
in Fire” from The Lonesome Jubilee is about Joe and his family’s ingrained anger. It’s widely known that Mellencamp was born
in a small town, specifically, the south-central Indiana burg of Seymour. He’s easily the town’s most famous son, but
the second-most famous might be George Green. He and Mellencamp have known each other since
they were in the same Sunday school class and they would later go on to write some songs
together. In fact, Green helped Mellencamp pen some
of his best-known tunes, including “Hurts So Good,” “Crumblin’ Down,” “Rain on the Scarecrow,”
and “Human Wheels.” The last song they wrote together was “Yours
Forever” for the soundtrack to the 2000 film The Perfect Storm. Soon after, they had a falling out. Mellencamp wrote about their split in the
liner notes to his 2010 box set On the Rural Route 7609: “Like when you’re married, when you’re friends
with somebody for a long time, the more things build up the more things can go wrong. There were personal problems, cross-pollinated
with professional issues. George has written some great lyrics and we’ve
written some great songs together, but I just couldn’t do it anymore.” After that fallout, they never collaborated
again, as Green died in 2011 at age 59 after a short battle with an aggressive form of
lung cancer. Mellencamp has projected an image as somebody
who likes to get rowdy and mix it up. After all, he’s the guy who fights authority,
even though authority always wins. It turns out that his sons, Hud and Speck,
have lived out the central battle described in “Authority Song” out in the real world. In the early morning of July 16, 2017, Hud
and Speck got into a fight in the parking lot of a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop in Bloomington,
Indiana. According to the police report, a small group
of men started “mouthing off” to the Mellencamp boys, and then things escalated. Hud said that somebody hit him, while Speck
had blood on his face by the time police showed up. Speck was sentenced to community service and
probation after pleading guilty to a count of public intoxication. This isn’t the first time Speck and Hud have
run afoul of the law. In 2015, Speck served four days of jail time
for a misdemeanor battery charge over an incident in 2013 in which the brothers kicked a teenager
they thought had hit Speck. At this rate, it looks like the troubles in
the Mellencamp family will continue for generations to come. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Grunge videos about your favorite
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