Somebody to Love: John Hiatt

John HiattAs I was listening to the radio last night, I heard a song by John Hiatt on the radio, and was instantly hit smack over the head once again with the fact of what a phenomenal songwriter he is. It made me run back home and look at all the CDs we have by him.

Now, hopefully, you’ve heard of John Hiatt. He’s been a working musician since the early 70’s, releasing his first LP (remember those round flat things?) in 1973. Even if you’ve never heard of John Hiatt himself, I’d bet money you’ve heard his songs, which have been covered by Marshall Crenshaw, Nick Lowe, Emmy Lou Harris, Roseanne Cash, and other artists. He’s got a funky, goofy voice with lots of crags and slides; but he always sounds like he’s singing part of his soul away, which is why I always prefer his versions to covers by people with, shall we say, prettier voices.

But back to the songwriting. Man, he’s good. Take “Icy Blue Heart” for example, from his 1988 album SLOW TURNING. This song is nothing but a ballad cloaked in an extended metaphor of cold — but boy, does it work:

She came onto him like a slow moving cold front
His beer was warmer than the look in her eye

He can also write a love song like nobody’s business. In his song “Before I Go,” from his 2000 album CROSSING MUDDY WATERS, he writes:

red tail hawk shooting down the canyon
put me on that wind he rides
I will be your true companion
when we reach the other side

So do yourself a favor. Check out some of the music on his website and see for yourself if you don’t find yourself loving the music.

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5 Responses to “Somebody to Love: John Hiatt”

  1. Holly Hughes Says:

    Always glad to hear from others who adore John Hiatt. I love what you say about “singing part of his soul away” — that describes it perfectly.

  2. toddiedowns Says:

    Thanks, Holly! I’ve gotten to see him in concert a couple times, and he puts on a terrific show. And I do like that less-styled type of singing — I put him in the same category as singer/songwriters like Richard Thompson and Bill Morrissey, where it’s fairly clear they’re songwriters first and singers second. I don’t mean that disparagingly, by the way:).

  3. Jill Says:

    Hey Toddie – must be in the air coming from the West – I wrote a lengthy post about music today too – though a completely different segment of the industry.

  4. toddiedowns Says:

    Hey Jill – There’s music in the air, whether it’s Deborah Harry or John Hiatt. If you take a listen to Hiatt’s stuff, I think you’ll find that he’s one of those voices and songwriters who continues to put out terrific stuff. You won’t find him trying to sound like anyone else.

  5. Jill Says:

    And absolutely not like Courtney Love. 🙂

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