The Success of John Hiatt


John Hiatt is an exceptional singer and songwriter who created songs of many genres. He grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana listening to Bob Dylan, to which he got inspiration from throughout his music. As an adolescent, Hiatt played in several bands playing in local clubs. One of the bands he joined was the White Duck, where he began to gain recognition as an artist. At the age of eighteen he signed with Tree Publishing in Nashville, Tennessee, as a songwriter. In 1974, Hiatt signed with Epic Records, where his debut album, “Hangin’ Around the Observatory” was an acclaimed album. One of the songs Hiatt worte, “Sure as I’, Sittin’ Here” , recorded by Three Dog Night reached number sixteen on the Billboard chart. However, after his second album “Overcoats”, Hiatt was let go of the record label and moved to Los Angeles.


In 1979, Hiatt signed with MCA records. The two albums he recorded with the new record label were “Slug Line” and “Two Bit Monsters”, both rock albums. These albums did not create a huge positive impact for the record label and Hiatt was terminated from the record label. Hiatt also wrote the song “Across the Borderline” in 1982, which was sung by Freddy Fender. This song was a hit and was covered by several artists, including Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson, and others. In 1981, Hiatt signed to Geffen Records. The first album with this record label was “All of a Sudden”. This album had a prominent use of synthesizers and keyboards. “Riding with the King” was the next album created with Geffen Records, which was building his audience in Europe. Mark Deming from AllMusic reviews states that “the consistent strength of Hiatt's witty, sweet-and-sour songwriting holds the album together”. Hiatt’s last album with Geffen Records was “Warming Up to the Ice Age”. The album did not chart across the world and he was dropped from the record label.


After getting let go of Geffen Records, Hiatt signed with A&M. “Bring the Family” was the eighth album Hiatt recorded. This album was recorded in only four days. “Bring the Family” was Hiatts first charting album, hitting 107 on the U.S Billboard 200 charts. The album received great reviews, Chris Morris from Chicago Reader expressed that “The album is a great bellow from the heart, full of songs that are captivatingly frank and invariably touching.”

Following his success, Hiatt released “Slow Turning”. Like his previous album, Hiatt received positive reviews and peaked in the Billboard 200 at 98. The title track hit number 8 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks. Hiatt’s third album with A&M is “Stolen Moments”, which ranked number 61 on U.S Billboards 200. “Bring Back Your Love to Me”, one of the tracks from “Stolen Moments”, was also recorded by Earl Thomas Conley. Conley won BMI’s 1991 Country Music Award for the recording.


Hiatt, along with Ry Cooder, Nick Lowe and Jim Keltner, became a band named Little Village. Their album, “Little Village”, had less than positive reviews and disbanded after a tour. Hiatt’s next solo album is “Perfectly Good Guitar”, which peaked at 47 on the Billboard charts and stayed on the charts for 11 weeks. The album also was number 16 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks. The first live album Hiatt recorded was “Hiatt Comes Alive at Budokan?”, which was the last album with A&M Records.


The following year after leaving A&M Records, Hiatt signed with Capitol Records. “Walk On” was his first album with the new record label and gave Hiatt his first Grammy nomination. The album was in the Billboard charts at number 48 and remained in the charts for nine weeks.

Hiatt’s fourteenth album “Little Head” did not last long on the Billboard Charts and Hiatt and left Capitol Records. He then signed with Vanguard Records and created his next album, “Crossing Muddy Waters” in 2000. This album was inspired by bluegrass music. One year later, Hiatt was named songwriter/artist of the year at the Nashville Music Awards. Hiatt recorded one more album, “The Tiki Bar is Open”, and then left to sign with New West.


With the new label, New West, Hiatt recorded “Beneath This Gruff Exterior”. The album had positive reviews, peaking at number 73 on the Billboard 200 charts, as well as number 3 on Top Independent Albums. The album “Master of Disaster”, received acknowledgement when it won the High Fidelity Review Listener’s Choice Award in the 2005 Surround Music Awards. In 2010, “Same Old Road” was number 84 on the Billboard 200 charts. Hiatt also was awarded with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting at the Americana Music Association Honors and Awards. Hiatt continued to create albums over the next several years, including “The Open Road”, “Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns”, and “Mystic Pinball”. “Mystic Pinball” peaked at number 39 on the Billboard 200 charts. In 2014, Hiatts “Terms of My Surrender” was released.


Four years after “Terms of My Surrender” Hiatts most recent album, The Eclipse Sessions”, was published.

Currently, Hiatt is planning on going to Africa in 2021 for the African Music Safari. He had a North American tour planned, however, due to the coronavirus the tour has been cancelled. Hiatt’s songwriting is praised throughout the music community, having various artists such as Bob Dylan and Iggy Pop performing his songs. He created a following with his diverse genres and his ability to evolve through the times.


Written by Madysen Dangelo

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