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Apr 29

Top Ten Indiana Songs (Only One Mellencamp Allowed)

Michael Jackson, Van Halen and Babyface Among the Famous Hoosiers

mellencamp.jpgInevitably, whenever I tell someone I used to live in Indiana, they mention three people: Larry Bird, Bob Knight, and John Mellencamp.

Because, you know, those are the only three famous people from Indiana.

No, not really. Remember Jane Pauly? And don’t forget Dave Letterman.

My wife used to work at a restaurant that Dave’s mom regularly frequented. And, as I’ve mentioned here before, my sister-in-law used to cut Mellencamp’s hair at the College Mall in Bloomington.

I had one interaction with Bob Knight: He entered a restaurant I was in, and when I looked at him, he nodded at me. Which, I guess, is better than him choking me.

Anyway, since I’m leaving the West Coast for a week to visit my Indiana peeps, I thought I’d share a little Hoosier culture with y’all. So I’m presenting my Top Ten Songs by Indiana Residents. Of course, I’ll have to establish a one entry per artist limit. Otherwise, it’d be a list of Top Ten Mellencamp Songs.  

So here goes:

10.) “Let’s Hear it For the Boy,” Deniece Williams. For some reason, my brain in the 80′s was much better at remembering song lyrics. So I can sing this entire song, from the movie “Footloose.” Williams, a Gary, Indiana, native started out as a backup singer for Stevie Wonder.

9.) “Together Again,” Janet Jackson. Another Gary native, many people first saw Jackson on the TV show “Good Times.” After her brothers became famous for music, she too hit the studio, cracking into the biz in a big way in the late 80′s. A big part of the dance music movement, she became more known for her famous “wardrobe malfunction” in the Super Bowl. She hasn’t been heard of too much since.

8.) “Lack of Water,” The Why Store. These guys started out at Ball State University in Muncie. Signed to MCA, they had a minor hit with this song, but never quite made it big.

7.) “Change the World,” Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds. Babyface, from the north side of Indianapolis, became a huge player in the music business, most notably as a producer and songwriter. On this one, he teamed up with Eric Clapton. Incidentally, the nickname “Babyface,” was given to him by funk legend Bootsy Collins, who had a pretty cool nickname of his own.blind-melon.jpg

6.) “No Rain,” Blind Melon. Shannon Hoon, of Lafayette, had his biggest hit with this one — often called “The Bumblebee Song” because of the video featuring a girl in a bee costume. Years after Hoon’s overdose, Hoon would be replaced by former San Luis Obispo resident Travis Warren, who has since left the band.

5.) “November Rain,” Guns N’ Roses. Axl Rose, notorious for his disputes with other musicians (as well as fans, girlfriends, and others) was actually friends with Hoon. Rose, who grew up singing in church and school choirs in Lafayette, scored several hits with G-n-R, but this softer one is my favorite. Former guitarist Izzly Stradlin was also a Hoosier.

4.)  Runnin’ With the Devil,” Van Halen. David Lee Roth, the former and sometimes current lead singer of Van Halen actually lived in Bloomington until he was 13.  Years after he split with the band, the eccentric singer was actually an emergency medical technician for a while before becoming a radio personality, then returning to Van Halen to make a bunch more money.

michael-jackson.jpg3.) “Human Nature,” Michael Jackson. Jackson was just 11 when he hit the big time as a member of the Jackson 5. (One of their hits included ”Goin’ Back to Indiana.”) The Gary native joined Motown, then went to L.A. where he recorded the huge-selling “Thriller.” This is my favorite song from the album.

2.) “Stardust,” Hoagy Charmichael. When I was in college at Indiana University, I used to get $2 cheese slices at this little pizza joint called Garcia’s, at the edge of campus. That building, formerly known as the Book Nook, is where Charmichael penned this classic song, covered many times. The I.U. grad also wrote “Lazybones” and “Georgia On My Mind.”

1.) “Small Town,” John Mellencamp. Of course. No one better captures living in Indiana than Seymour native (later transplanted to Bloomington) Johnny Cougar. This song became synonymous with B-Town. And many of his videos showcase Bloomington.


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