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Rock News

Odd Couples: When Mick Ronson Helped John Mellencamp Score a Hit

todayApril 28, 2022 2

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At first glance, there’s little to suggest that John Mellencamp, a pillar of ’80s heartland rock, and Mick Ronson, David Bowie‘s trusted sidekick, would have much common ground.

But their juxtaposing backgrounds and personalities may have been just the right mix for a hit song.

Mellencamp was the rough-and-tumble rebel, eager for success but distrustful of higher-ups in the recording industry. By the early ’80s, he was still performing as “Johnny Cougar,” the stage name his management had insisted was more marketable. Mellencamp disliked it from the start.

“I fought my whole life to have some kind of individuality, from grade school on up to where I am now,” he said to Rolling Stone in 1982. “And that’s still my greatest problem.”

On the other hand, Ronson, who was classically trained on piano and violin as a child, was a less assertive figure. An exceptionally talented arranger, in addition to a guitarist, he was open-minded and imaginative when it came to working in the studio.

“Music’s all the same, really,” he told RockTimes. “I don’t think you can say, ‘I’m a jazz musician’ or ‘I’m a rock musician.’ If you’re a musician, you’re a musician. I think you can go into any area of music — it’s just music!”

At beginning of the ’80s, a mutual manager brought the artists together in a Miami studio, resulting in one of Mellencamp’s greatest hits. Watch the video below to get the entire odd-couple story.

John Mellencamp Albums Ranked

A pre-fab pop singer turned heartland rocker turned rootsy moralist, John Mellencamp has had almost as many career turns as names. 

Written by: Allison Rapp

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