Hand To Hold On To

Album: American Fool (1982)
Charted: 19
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Songfacts®:

  • No matter how cool you think you are, at some point, you're going to need some support - a hand to hold on to. That's the sentiment in this song, where John Mellencamp explains that the hand doesn't have to be rich or strong, just present.

    By Mellencamp standards, it's pretty on-the-nose, but at this point he was very much in hit-maker mode, trying to write accessible songs that would sell so he could break free of the conventions his record company imposed on him, like changing his name. He was still using the name John Cougar, which was foisted on him when he got into the business. Hit by hit, he gradually became so popular he was able to use his real name and get control of his music and image.
  • "Hand To Hold On To" was the third single from Mellencamp's breakthrough album, American Fool, following "Hurts So Good" and "Jack & Diane." It got a lot of airplay and many listeners connected with the sentiment, but it's not a song that stuck with Mellencamp, who stopped playing it in 1988.
  • MTV was a big factor in Mellencamp's rise. Most of his singles from this era came with videos directed by Bruce Gowers that were low-budget, but effective. "Hand To Hold On To" shows him and his band performing outside on the grounds of an abandoned factory. Mellencamp is wearing a leather jacket with a scarf and a Where's Waldo-looking shirt, a look he somehow pulls off.

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