Jack & Diane

Album: American Fool (1982)
Charted: 25 1


  • A song about a high school couple falling in love, Mellencamp wrote "Jack & Diane" as a tribute to life in the rural working class. The inspiration was his hometown of Seymour, Indiana, which had a population of about 13,000 when it was released. The song has a very nostalgic feel, but paints a picture of a couple whose best years will soon be behind them. In a 1982 interview with The LA Herald Examiner, Mellencamp explained: "Most people don't ever reach their goals, but that's cool, too. Failure's a part of what you're all about anyway. Coming to terms with failed expectations is what counts. I try to write about the most insignificant things, really. I mean, someone who picks up a copy of Newsweek, then sits down and writes a song about the troubles in South America - who cares? What's that song telling us that we don't already know? Write about something that matters to people, man."
  • In Campbell Devine's authorized biography of Ian Hunter and Mott The Hoople it is revealed that this song was heavily influenced by Mick Ronson. The multi-talented Ronson (1946-1993), who was best known as a guitarist, recorded as a solo artist as well as playing lead guitar for both David Bowie and Ian Hunter (as Hunter-Ronson). In the book, Mellencamp says he'd thrown the song on the junk heap, adding: "I owe Mick Ronson the song... Mick was very instrumental in helping me arrange that." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England
  • Some of Mellencamp's high school photos and home movies were used to make the video, which was pretty much an afterthought. His record company hired Jon Roseman Productions to make videos for the songs "Hurts So Good" and "Hand To Hold On To."

    Paul Flattery, who worked for that production company, explained in the book I Want My MTV that Mellencamp made a special request after those videos were completed: "He said, 'Look, there's a song on the album the label doesn't believe in. But I do. Can you do me a favor and save one roll of film, shoot me singing the song, I'll give you some old photos and stuff and then you cobble it together for me?

    The song was 'Jack & Diane.' So we stole some editing time in LA. We projected slides on the edit room wall, and we had the tape-op wear white gloves to do the clapping. We didn't charge John a cent."
  • Mellencamp spent a long time crafting this song in an effort to make it a hit. This was part of his plan to become so successful he could ignore critics and tell his record company to stick it. But first, he had to make some concessions, like changing his name.

    His manager named him "Johnny Cougar," and he went along with it, scoring an Australian hit with "I Need A Lover" in 1978. A year later, he altered his moniker to "John Cougar," which is how he was billed on the American Fool album. The first single, "Hurts So Good" became a huge hit and got him on MTV, and when "Jack & Diane" followed, it accomplished his mission of autonomy through hits.

    When he released Uh-Huh in 1983, it was as John Cougar Mellencamp, with songs that were less crafted and more inspired, especially "Pink Houses." He lived up to his reputation of being difficult, but it didn't matter because he could call the shots.
  • Jack and Diane were a interracial couple in the first version of this song, inspired by the blended couples Mellencamp saw during his live performances (Jack was black, Diane was white). He took the race part out of it and made Jack a football star after an executive from his record company heard what he was working on and asked him to do so in an effort to make the song more relatable and therefore boost its hit potential. With race removed from the equation, a broader swath of Mellencamp's audience identified with the song, especially in the Midwest. He says that lots of folks have told him that the characters are just like them.
  • Following Phil Collins' template from the 1981 hit "In The Air Tonight," Mellencamp ordered a drum break in the middle of this song. His drummer, Kenny Aronoff, had to come up with it on the spot, proving his mettle when he did so. In a Songfacts interview with Aronoff, he told the story:

    "I walk into the studio and the co-producer has a Linn LM-1 drum machine. I'd never seen a drum machine before. I'm being told that they're using this on the song 'Jack & Diane' that we were having trouble coming up with an arrangement for. I'm devastated that I'm going to be replaced by a drum machine. I grab the drum machine, I get the manual, and I program the drum part. I'm in the lounge, really bummed out and wondering, 'What's the future of the drummer?' This is 1981. I'm wondering, 'Will that machine replace us?'

    Two hours later, I'm summoned into the control room, where John tells me, 'I need you to come up with a drum solo or something after the second chorus.' At that moment, I was absolutely terrified and excited. Excited because I'm now going to be playing on the record. Terrified because I knew that I had to save the song in order to save my career. Because if I didn't come up with it, they'd replace me. Two people had already been fired in the band and when I joined two years prior, I was fired from playing on the record. So, this was a scary moment for me.

    The long and short of it is, I come up with this part on the spot and it becomes a #1 hit – John's biggest hit ever. That and 'In The Air Tonight' by Phil Collins are probably the two most air-drummed solos on pop radio, ever [even Mellencamp air drums it in the video]. It's not technically hard, but I was forced to create that on the spot."
  • Up until the big drum break, a drum machine was used on this song, but drummer Kenny Aronoff gave it a human touch not just for the break, but also the section that immediately follows. "When I got into the groove after the drum solo, the drummer that influenced me to hit the floor tom on beat four was Steve Gadd from a recording he did on a Chick Corea album, and the song was called 'Lenore,'" Aronoff told Songfacts. "Steve Gadd would always hit the beat on beat four. I thought that was cool, so even though I don't sound anything like Steve Gadd and nothing like he was playing on the Chick Corea record, that track influenced me to hit the floor tom, which made my hi-hats open."
  • This song helped Mellencamp forge his identity, which was a struggle for him. "The image that was given to me by the record company was so far off base of who I was and what I wanted to do," he said in his Plain Spoken DVD. "I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I knew what I didn't want to do. I did not want to be Johnny Cougar, I did not want to sing love songs, I did not want to be the next Neil Diamond, which is what they wanted."

    "Jack & Diane," with specific references to rural America, established him as a heartland rocker, which suited him. He also got some great advice. "I had to figure out what my image was, and I had a girl say to me, 'John, just be a pair of blue jeans. That's what you are.' And the great thing about blue jeans is, you can dress them up, or you can dress them down."
  • The only musical couple song that can rival this one for popularity is the standard "Frankie And Johnny. Most other hit songs of this nature were cribbed from literature or film, like "Romeo And Juliet" and Bonnie And Clyde. In 1978, Raydio had a hit with "Jack And Jill."
  • Weird Al Yankovic planned to parody this song on his 1983 debut album as "Chuck And Diane," making fun of the royal couple Prince Charles and Lady Diana. Yankovic couldn't get Mellencamp's permission to do the parody (which he asks as a courtesy, as anyone can parody a song as long as proper royalties are paid), so he used the lyrical content for an original song called "Buckingham Blues" instead. Yankovic did parody the song on the 2003 Simpsons episode "Three Gays Of The Condo," where he sang it in animated form as "Homer And Marge." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Donovan Berry - El Dorado, AR
  • This is the only #1 Hot 100 hit in Mellencamp's career, and based on streams and downloads, his most popular song.

    The Sun October 10, 2008 asked Mellencamp if it bothered him being best known for this little ditty. He replied: "That song is 30 or so years old and it gets played more today in the United States than it did when it came out. As much as I am a little weary of those two, I don't know any other two people in rock and roll who are more popular than Jack and Diane. Some people probably think there's a place in hell for me because of those two people! But it gave me the keys to do what I want. I'm 57 today. I've lived the way I wanted to live, sometimes recklessly and stupidly, but still been able to do that. I've been able to live on my whims, that's what Jack and Diane gave me, so I can't hate them too much."
  • In 2012, a film was released called Jack & Diane, but Mellencamp had nothing to do with it, and the song is not used in the movie. In the film, Jack (played by Riley Keough) is a girl, and she and Diane have a lesbian relationship. Mellencamp said in a statement: "You don't hear my song in the film, and I played no part in suggesting or offering this title. It's most apparent that the lead characters were named with the hope that the familiar title might resonate in some people's minds. I guess that's OK to do, strictly from a legal perspective, but riding on someone else's coattails and having a moral compass is left up to each individual."
  • Jessica Simpson sampled this on her 1999 song "I Think I'm In Love With You."
  • On the ABC TV series Black-ish, the youngest siblings are twins named Jack and Diane. On the 2016 episode "Twindependence," this song comes up when the mother (Tracee Ellis Ross) tries to reconcile their dispute by explaining this song. "John Cougar Mellencamp wrote a song about you," she says. "It's called 'Jack & Diane.' It's probably one of the most famous guitar riffs of all time."

    Here's the rest of the exchange:

    Diane: "Never heard it."

    Jack: "Jack and Diane were twins?"

    Mom: "Oh no. Not exactly."

    Jack: "But they were brother and sister."

    Mom: "Uh, no. They were boyfriend and girlfriend."

    Jack: "This feels right to you?"
  • Mellencamp mentioned the title characters again in his 1998 song "Eden Is Burning." The first line is, "Diane and Jack went to the movies."

Comments: 55

  • Youh Mahmah from MdYeah, I know Jack and Diane personally! They are my neighbors and say they used to hang out with Mellencamp all the time! Nah I'm just kidding, so STOP SAYING YOU KNOW THEM!!! (directed towards like 10% of the comments here)
  • Hans from Boston, MaI had posted about this earlier, but Mellencamp's complaint about the 2012 film, "Jack & Diane" "riding his coattails" is really hypocritical. The content of the lyrics of "Jack and Diane" was taken from "The Six Teens" by Sweet, which is OK from a legal vantage, but the lyrics and melody of the chorus (which opens with "But life goes on") is similar enough that if I owned the publishing, I would have sued Mellencamp. Don't get me started on "The Authority Song" ripping off "I Fought the Law."
  • Shandroise De Laeken from Davao City, PhilippinesThere's a song from 2010-2014 which sampled the acoustic guitar chords of this song. I often hear that song in the radio.Today (08-08-2015) I heard this song for the first time, and as soon as I heard its guitar chords and got reminded of that 2010-2014 song, I searched Jack and Diane up. Finding out that it's overplayed just says why that newer band used the guitar chords of this song. They hear this often, and they find the guitar in this beautiful.
  • Marc from -, MdFirst-ever interview with the girl in this video, including what she's doing now and never-published pics: http://noblemania.blogspot.com/2014/07/the-girl-in-video-jack-diane-1982.html. Hint: She was John's w_f_.
  • Hans from Cambridge, MaThe chorus is kind of jarring in terms of being incongruous from the verses like Mellencamp was forcing two different songs together. It all made sense once I realized that song's lyrics are heavily inspired (borrowed?) by the band Sweet's song The SixTeens, where there is a connection between the narrative and the existential crisis. Check out this uncredited inspiration - it flows better and makes a lot more sense.
  • Heather from Los Angeles, CaFrankly, I can't stand this song. "Two American kids doin' the best they can". That's probably so, which ain't much folks. It reminds me of some of the idiots I knew in highschool.
  • Mimi from Marion, InBobbie Brooks is a brand of women's clothing. A Tastee Freeze is kind of like a Dairy Queen...
  • Camille from Toronto, OhOne of the most overplayed oldies on the radio.
  • Brian from Boston, MaThis is a great song. I love the acoustic guitar in this song. I play this on guitar myself .I really like the percussive way John plays the acoustic in this song
  • Hannah from Gustavus, OhThis is definitely one of my favorite songs from the 80s. I've lived in a small Ohio town in the Rust Belt my whole life, and the first time I heard this I knew exactly what a "Taste-Freeze" was bacause we have at least three similar establishments around here (little ice cream/snack stands where you can get hot dogs, burgers, sodas etc. too). That's a very Rust Belt/Midwest thing.
  • Nina from Brandon, MsJohn acknowledges that Mick Ronson played a huge role in getting this song together and making it a hit. I wonder if Mick saw any royalties from it? I doubt he did but he deserved to. RIP Mick.
  • Michael from Oakland, CaI think there should be a song from the guy with the hitman story
  • Jennifer from Austin, TxI also read it was written after Mellencamp saw Splendor In The Grass....as Kellie In FL statted in an earlier post.
  • Jeff from Boston, MaFor Erika and others curious about the name "Bobby Brooks", that is the name of a women's clothing brand. The lyric most likely refers to Diane's jeans or tights which Jack wants to "dribble off" so he can "do what I please" with her.
  • Cristian from Santiago, ChileFor some reason, my posting on this song was eliminated. All I said was that the song was not half bad but it was basically a Dylan wannabe. Cougar used Dylan's singing style and the writing is second rate Dylan. But, it's still a pretty good song.
  • Erika from Medford, Nyi love his song<3
    it also has my god fathers name in it, Bobby Brooks, wonder if JCM ever knew him or if he picked he name at random....hmmm
  • Franci from Bangalore, IndiaBeautiful song. fits in perfectly with other hits of the 80's that made you think of those younger years when life was reckless and free !

    Thanks Mellencamp for a truly amazing song!
  • Al from Bumfuque, Bhutanhe ripped off the acoustic guitar part from "that's the way" by led zeppelin.
  • Al from Bumfuque, Bhutani always thought that the opening line went, "a little pity 'bout jackie dyin'"
  • Dave from Port Jervis , NyI own John Cougar Mellecamp's corvette used in the Jack and Diane video and after watching the video I realize I own a piece of Rock and Roll history. The song will live on for ever-its only getting better.
  • Rory from Escalon, CaJack and Diane aren't real people so I dont know what you guys are talking about. Jack and Diane is John Mellencamp's way of saying a couple. Like a couple who is in love is in general, a jack and diane
  • Bender from East West Virginia, Va"OH yeah, the buzz goes on, long after your fill of drinking is gone"
  • Melissa from Lorton, VaThey played this song on the radio during lunchtime at my school. I was surprised most of my friends knew and liked it!! So by the end we were all singing along. I love this song, so sweet.
  • Dave from Nashua, NhHow do you find the most incredible version of this song. I have heard it on radio but cannot find out when it was recorded. Very robust version of Jack and Diane with much bass and acoustic additions. Anyone know?
  • Susan from Toronto, CanadaThe line "...does his best James Dean, `Well, then there...'" was actually taken from a James Dean movie. I was watching REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and James Dean says to Sal Mineo on some mansion stairs, "Well, then there...." EXACTLY as John Mellencamp says them in this song.
  • Catharine from Baltimore, MdI think the fact that so many people are claiming to know the 'real' Jack and Diane just proves how apropos the names are--real commonplace, American-sounding names.
  • Michael from San Diego, CaOne of the most heartfelt, passionate songs ever written or sung. A timeless classic that people will still be enjoying for decades to come!
  • Pete from Nowra, Australiathere's a Jack n Dianne living here in Nowra NSW Australia , they were a lovely couple, Jack just under went a triple by pass operation , and Dianne took off with the milkman when he was in hospital , Jack found out from his brother Ted, so he hired a hitman to get Dianne , it backfired when the hit man killed Dianne's sister Joyce by mistake , now Jack and the hitman are doing time in jail , and Dianne ran off to Barbados with the milkman
  • Lin from Chicago, IlAll these are wrong. Jack and Diane are both from Illinois, married young and have a son. Jack recently passed away of cancer. I personally know the family. Amazing song.
  • Tommy from Philadelphia, PaMick Ronson, the late, talented guitarist who played for David Bowie as one of the "Spiders from Mars", played guitar on "Jack and Diane."
  • Carolyn from Jackson, United StatesThe real Jack and Diane are from Breathitt Co., KY. John met them while in Germany in the army.
  • Joe from Bellingham, Waon the simpsons episode where homer rents a condo with three gay guys, weird al comes and sings homer a jack and diane parody called "homer and marge" i like it better than the mellencamp version! not sure if its on any weird al album though...
  • Eric from Milltown, Inlove this song, John's a huge hit around southern Indiana. as for the "suckin on chili dogs" line, i think it means the same thing as when you suck down a hot dog, just means your eatin it fast.
  • Dana from Calgary, CanadaIn response to the comment above about the lyrics, you have them wrong, which is probably why your so confused. its " Diane sittin' on Jacky's lap, got his hands between HER knees" not HIS knees. but I think you have something with the chilli dog thing...
  • Patrick from Tallapoosa, GaMost Tasty Freezes have all scattered to the winds. I live a few miles from the GA/AL state line, and there's one about 20 minutes from the state line in Alabama. To better understand what the Tasty Freeze is, or was, think of Sonic Drive-In.
  • Brandon from Peoria, IlExplain this: "Diane sittin' on Jackie's lap, got his hands between his knees..." How can he have his hands between his knees if Diane is sitting on his lap? I think he's pettin' Diane's kitty and she's suckin' on more than just a chilli dog if you ask me. :) BTW I usually EAT my chilli dogs but hey, to each his own i guess.
  • Bev from Lees Summit, MoTo Pete from Nowra, a Tasty Freeze is like an old Dairy Queen. Usually a little walk up place that sells soft ice cream, hot dogs, fries and pop. I have fond memories of places like that from my childhood and you can still find them in some places.
    I really like John Mellencamp and have a lot of respect for him, but this song drives me nuts. I turn it off whenever it starts playing.
  • Pete from Nowra, Australiacould never work out that line" sucking on a chilli dog outside etc etc etc , well now i know ...so whats a Tasty Freaaze????
  • Jerry from Brooklyn, NyFor some reason, my posting on this song was eliminated. All I said was that the song was not half bad but it was basically a Dylan wannabe. Cougar used Dylan's singing style and the writing is second rate Dylan. But, it's still a pretty good song.
  • Pete from Nowra, Australiaactually started off as Johnny Cougar, then John Cougar , then John Cougar Mellencamp, now its John Mellencamp...reminds me of that joke
    are ya ready ? "where do watermelons go on their holidays???? John Cougar's Melon camp.... ha ha tee hee ha ha

  • Steve St. Michael from Renfrew, CanadaI think John should write more about Jack and Diane's venture through life.
  • James from Toronto, Canadafor some reason i think the guitar and the drums beats are absolutely perfect together...Great song
  • Olivia from Perth, AustraliaI love everything about this song.
  • Rob from Castaic, CaYeah Ernie - Mellencamp is/was against the war, not that it makes much difference in whether or not I think the song is good or not.
  • Kellie from Bradenton, FlThe movie Splendor in the Grass with Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty is alot like the song. It's about two high school kids named Deana and Bud. Deana is in love with Bud but he breaks up with her to focus more on his football career and she goes crazy. "Little ditty about jack and dianeTwo american kids growin´ up in the heartland Jackie´s gonna be a football star
    Diane debutante backseat of jackie´s car." In the end she is finally able to move on. "Oh yeah life goes on
    Long after the thrill of livin´ is gone
    Oh yeah life goes on
    Long after the thrill of livin´ is gone"

  • Oskar from Bilbao, Spain"Life goes on/long after the thrill of living is gone." These lines of the chorus are simply brilliant. They describe well a lot of people
    ´s routinary existence. Think about it!
  • Jr from Centreville, MdObviously one of the most recognized songs of the past decade. Its a great song, anytime it comes on the radio, everyone starts singing it,we all know the lyrics and we all love it.
  • Ernie from Waltham Mass, United StatesI bought tickets recently for my,s wifes birthday in boston at the tweeter center july 7th after i did this i did some recearch and found out he was against the vietnam war and is agaist the iraq war is this true
  • Jess from Jeff, InJohn Mellencamp is from Seymore, Indiana. I've actually seen him at an Indiana basketball game once.
  • Jim from Oxnard, CaThere is no Jack and Diane. Mellencamp is from Indiana (the name of the town escapes me) and there is no couple that goes by that name in that town. He probably just thought of a typical American-as-cherry-pie couple in writing the song.
  • Richard from Versailles, KyThe song is great i love it i can actually relate to it with an ongoing relationship i am currently engaged with
  • Cary from Los Angeles, CaI know the "family" of Jack & Diane. "Jack's" real name is actually John. Mellencamp thought Jack sounded better than John, plus his own name is John, so he didn't want people thinking the song was about him.

    Jack & DIane got married, had 2 kids, a boy & a girl and eventually got a divorce. "Jack & Diane" are still friends of Mellencamps & the daughter used to babysit for him until she went off to college. The family resides in Lee County, FL.
  • Ben from Philly, PaThe main characters in Sugar & Spice were Jack and Diane, named after this song. "Two american kids doin´ the best they can"; "Jackie´s gonna be a football star" are both parts of the movie.
  • Ryan from Mobile, AlGreat song! One of my personal favorites.
  • Natasha from Chico, CaGreat song, mellencamp wanted to use an interracial couple for the video, but the producers wouldn't allow it.
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