John Hiatt is the talented singer/songwriter who is a native of Indianapolis. In his frankly autobiographical song “Real Fine Love,” Hiatt captures some of the blue-collar bitterness he felt as he headed out to
Memphis Nashville at age 18 to make a living as a professional songwriter:
Well I never went to college,
I did not have the luck.
Stole out of Indiana
In the back of a pickup truck.
With no education higher
Than the streets of my hometown
I went lookin’ for a fire
Just to burn it all down.
In the song, Hiatt finds deliverance of a kind with his wife (Nancy) and their family. He’s now been married for more than twenty-five years. When he passed through Minneapolis in January 2007 for a show with Lyle Lovett, Joe Ely, and Guy Clark, Nancy introduced the show. Hiatt rose to the occasion with the song. “I’d seen an angel or two before,” he sings, “but I’d never asked one to be my wife.”
The Wall Street Journal now introduces Hiatt to a wide audience in Steve Dougherty’s profile “John Hiatt: The indefatigable songwriter.” He has written lots of terrific songs but, according to Dougherty, only a couple have achieved hit status. One of them made it to number 1 on the country chart courtesy of Rosanne Cash: “The Way We Make a Broken Heart” (performed live by Cash in the video below). It’s a song of guilty love that says something old in a new way. The singer recites the brief “lessons” intimated in the title over a jaunty arrangement that heightens the tension in the lyrics: “There must be millions like you and me, practiced in the art.”
Hiatt’s “Feels Like Rain” is some kind of a masterpiece. Here the words and the melody are perfectly in sync, bringing a place and a feeling and a situation to throbbing life. Rain never felt so good. Buddy Guy does a great cover of the song, but I want you to meet John Hiatt.