John Hiatt turns 54 today. I don’t know about you, but I always think of musicians as older than I am, or more recently, considerably younger. But Hiatt is essentially my age. I suppose I could have waited until next year to write this, when he hits the double nickel, but what the heck – I’m still bummed that I missed seeing him this summer, for FREE, because of my wisdom tooth extraction the day before.
I have no better way to indicate how much I love the music of Hiatt than to indicate that I’ve seen him live once (and would have seen him again this year), I’ve put together compilation discs of songs written by him and covered by others, and I own a majority of his output. To wit:
1979 Slug line NO
1980 Two bit monsters NO
1982 All of a sudden NO
1983 Riding with the king LP
1985 Warming up to the ice age CD
1987 Bring the family CD
1988 Slow turning CD
1989 Y’all caught? CD
1990 Stolen moments CD
1992 Little Village CD
1993 Slug line/Two bit monsters NO
1993 Perfectly good guitar CD
1994 Hiatt comes alive at Budokan CD
1995 Walk on CD
1996 Living a little, laughing a little CD
1996 Master series best of NO
1997 Little head CD
1998 Greatest hits and more NO
1999 Greatest Hits The A&M Years ’87 – ’94 CD
2000 Crossing Muddy Waters CD
2001 Anthology NO
2001 The tiki bar is open CD
2003 Beneath This Gruff Exterior CD
2004 20th century masters: The millennium collection NO
2005 Master of disaster CD
2005 Chronicles 3 CD box NO
2005 Live from Austin TX NO
About 60% of his output. I’m missing some of his early, unfocused work, and some of the other stuff I don’t have is duplicative.
My favorite John Hiatt songs:
1. Shredding the Documents from Walk On. Faux Beach Boys harmony, name-checks Larry King and Oprah.
2. Have a Little Faith in Me from Bring the Family. And the remixed version on one of his greatest hits album, with more orchestration, is definitely NOT an improvement.
3. Perfectly Good Guitar, title track. Reportedly really ticked off Pete Townsend, who has been known to smash one or two.
4. I Don’t Even Try from Riding with the King. Used to listen to this on the late, great Q-104. I love how the intro line echoes Smoke on the Water.
5. Lift Up Every Stone from Crossing Muddy Waters. I first heard this on an episode of A Prairie Home Companion on a co-worker’s 35th birthday, right after his party in Albany, while driving towards Poughkeepsie, my co-worker’s hometown. The song has a gospel feel.
An NPR story on Hiatt. Julie Hembeck, someday, you’ll appreciate the music of John Hiatt.