John Hiatt

Veteran songwriter sings his own

Success came neither easily nor quickly for John Hiatt. Though he worked in Nashville as a songwriter within a few years of graduating high school, and even had Three Dog Night take one of his songs, "Sure As I'm Sitting Here," into the Top 20, personal success was a long time coming. A dozen years, three labels, seven albums, and several styles later, Hiatt -- no closer to success -- had sunk into alcoholism and lost his wife to suicide. But after going into rehab and signing with his fourth label, A&M, he finally struck pay dirt in 1986, backing himself with a crack band (Ry Cooder, Nick Lowe and Jim Keltner) and recording Bring the Family. By then, Hiatt had settled on a rootsy mix of blues, folk and rock 'n' roll, swaying from one side to another and settling in as an established cult artist in the vein of J.J. Cale or Graham Parker. While a fine guitar player, Hiatt's greatest gift is the voice he gives to the human heart, uncorking couplets such as "She came onto him like a slow-moving cold front/His beer was warmer than the look in her eyes," which has led his songs to be covered by artists ranging from Bob Dylan and Bonnie Raitt to Iggy Pop and B.B. King.

 
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