John Hiatt is the mastermind behind many famous songs.
Clever and soulful, Hiatt is still writing music after 50 years. As a result, he’s sought after by singers across all genres. He’s even released a few albums himself.
A heartland rock, blues, and Americana kind of guy, we’re learning more about this great artist.
Let’s jump in!
Who Is John Hiatt?
John Hiatt is a singer/songwriter born in 1952 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2008, this not-so-well-known singer wrote hits for many big-time performers.
You might think you don’t know him, but you probably do. Bob Dylan, Joe Cocker, and Paula Abdul recorded and performed his songs. Additionally, Hiatt wrote hits for B.B. King, Willie Nelson, and Bonnie Raitt.
Hiatt’s ability to pen and play a great tune may be due partly to his life experiences. By age 11, he’d lost his favorite older brother to suicide. And his father died after a long illness. So music was his escape from sadness. It was around this same time that he got his first guitar.
At age 18, Hiatt moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and began working for Tree-Music Publishing Company as a songwriter. Unfortunately, he then also stepped into the world of drugs and alcohol. A combination he would rectify later in life.
To date, Hiatt has released 26 albums as a musician. However, so many of his songs became famous through other artists.
John Hiatt’s Most Famous Songs
The real success for Hiatt is in his songwriting. His ability to craft lyrics is undeniable. Whether he sang it himself or wrote it for someone else, these three are well-known hits.
Have a Little Faith in Me
One of the most beloved songs written by Hiatt is Have a Little Faith in Me. He sings it on his album Bring the Family, released in 1987. This one finally brought him to the mainstream as a musician in his own right.
Hiatt sings with a rich R&B sound and honest emotion. The song strikes a chord in many who hear it. Numerous singers, including Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan, Bon Jovi, and Dolly Parton, have all recorded versions of this tune. Talk about a diverse group of artists!
However, to truly appreciate it, we think the best version is Hiatt’s original.
Thing Called Love
Thing Called Love is one of Hiatt’s most commercially and financially successful singles. It, too, was on the Bring the Family album.
The lyrics are an homage to John’s substance abuse and the toll it takes on your family. Yet, love is crazy and brings redemption.
Bonnie Raitt featured the hit tune on her Grammy Award-winning album, Nick of Time. While Hiatt’s version is raw with emotion, Raitt is sultry and bluesy as she plays it. It’s a standout track.
Riding With the King
Riding With the King is the title track to Hiatt’s 1983 album of the same name. As a child, Hiatt found comfort in music. Elvis Presley was one of his early influences, and he wrote this song as a tribute to “the King.”
B.B. King and Eric Clapton also sang a version of the tune. They revised the lyrics and repurposed the song as a first-person account of B.B. King’s music.
Regardless of which King—blues or rock and roll—the lyrics and sound are undeniably Hiatt. Just like the chorus sings, “Don’t you know we’re riding with the King?”
Is John Hiatt in the Hall of Fame?
We noted that John became a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2008. The same year, he received the Americana Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting.
BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.) also honored Hiatt in 2019 with the Troubadour Award. The accolade celebrates writers who craft for the sake of the song and sets the pace for future generations of writers. Only two others, John Prine and Robert Earl Keen, received the award before Hiatt.
In 2000, Hiatt was named the Nashville Music Awards’ Songwriter/Artist of the Year. He’s also been nominated for ten Grammy Awards.
There’s even a book out about Hiatt. The John Hiatt Story is a biography written by Michael Elliott (foreword by Elvis Costello). The bio is in-depth and soulful, not unlike his writing.
Who Did John Hiatt Collaborate With on Leftover Feelings?
John Hiatt got together with the Jerry Douglas Band to create more magic. They produced and released the Grammy Award-nominated album Leftover Feelings.
The band recorded the album in the historic RCA Studio B, also known as the “temple of sound.” A video documents the group creating educational resources for the nonprofit Country Music Hall of Fame.
Hiatt, Douglas, and band members recorded the music in real time, as it would’ve been done in the 1950s and 1960s. They all play together in the old studio, emotionally reacting to each other’s performance. The video is delightful to watch.
The music isn’t truly bluegrass, blues, or R&B but a great blend of Americana. There’s a fun mix of acoustic guitar, dobro, lap steel, bass, tic-tock bass, electric guitars, and a violin. The whole album is a treat.
What is John Hiatt Doing Now?
Hiatt’s career continues to grow after five decades. He recently toured with Lyle Lovett and also hit the stage with Buddy Guy. Additionally, John was planning to perform at the January 2023 South African Music Safari, but unfortunately, the owner passed away. The event has since been canceled.
The work on which Hiatt and Douglas collaborated received Libera Award nominations. He’s at the top of his game, better than ever.
Hiatt is active on all the social media platforms too. You can also follow him on his website. Sign up for his mailing list to stay up to date on his upcoming appearances.
A Great Storyteller
John Hiatt isn’t slowing down anytime soon. He’s a rich storyteller, penning some of the best lyrics in the industry. His vocals and musicianship are equally strong.
We’re glad we’ve gotten to know more about John. He’s a gifted individual who deserves to be recognized and heard.
What’s your favorite John Hiatt song? Tell us about it in the comments below.