Performer John Hiatt turns 70

“I’ll be there to catch your fall”

John HiattI’ve been listening to John Hiatt for nearly four decades. So enamored with his music was I that I wrote a post about him when he turned 54. Since then, I’ve got the albums The Open Road (2010), Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns (2011), and Terms of My Surrender (2014).

His sixth album I have on vinyl. Hiatt said, “I always kind of look at Riding with the King (1983) as the first album where I really put it all together.” And that’s probably true. Warming Up to the Ice Age (1985) failed commercially, and Geffen dropped him from the roster. Bring The Family (1987) was his first Billboard 200 album and is probably my favorite.

Slow Turning (1988) has such great songs that several were covered by other artists. Indeed, LOTS of artists have covered his songs, many of which I own. A small list: Sure As I’m Sitting Here (Three Dog Night), Across the Borderline (Willie Nelson), Thing Called Love (Bonnie Raitt), When We Ran (Linda Ronstadt), and Riding With The King (B.B. King and Eric Clapton).

My wife and I saw him at the Troy (NY) Music Hall in 2003.

Twelve songs

Here are a dozen John Hiatt tunes. If I were to pick my favorites, almost half would be from Bring The Family.

The Tiki Bar Is Open – the title track. Someone on a video wrote of John that he “has remained a fringe artist all these years despite his incredible songwriting skills and emotive and highly recognizable vocal style. He just keeps putting out amazing stuff year after year.”

Trudy and Dave – Slow Turning. My mom was named Trudy. I had a whimsical thought that mom had run off with another guy. “They’re out of their minds.”

Real Fine Love – Stolen Moments.

Feels Like Rain – Slow Turning.

Crossing Muddy Waters – the title song. I think songs from this acoustic album were performed by Hiatt on A Prairie Home Companion c. 2000.

The Most Unoriginal Sin – Beneath This Gruff Exterior. This was recorded by Willie Nelson in 1993, a full decade before Hiatt put it on the end of an album.

She Loves The Jerk – Riding With The King.

Slow Turning – the title track. Namechecks Charlie Watts.

Shredding The Document – Walk On. The lyrics are a bit dated – Larry King, e.g. – but I LOVE the harmony on the chorus.

Perfectly Good Guitar – the title track. Apparently, this ticked off Pete Townshend for a time.

I Don’t Even Try – Riding With The King. A variation on a familiar pop hook.

Have A Little Faith In Me – Bring the Family. When I made a mixed tape for my now-wife Carol, this was the centerpiece.


My friend Rocco read a biography that he really liked, Have a Little Faith: The John Hiatt Story by Michael Elliott. It is “a long-overdue, in-depth biography of Americana’s most enigmatic characters,” according to the review in Americana UK. 

The writer touched on every studio album that Hiatt did and gave some great insight into what made it happen even the one live album, Rocco reports.

A song you’d love played at your wedding

I will catch your fall

At_Last_-_Etta_JamesThe next music prompt is “A song you’d love be played at your wedding.” I assume they’re really talking about the reception – among other things, we had Bach during the ceremony – so I’m operating on that premise.

We had a keyboard player that played a number of songs. I believe my father, sister and niece Rebecca likely sang; I might have as well, but it’s a bit a blur. I specifically recall, because there’s a photo, my niece Alex singing Yellow Submarine with one of her young cousins.

My wife and I first-danced to At Last by Etta James. I’m sure the first time I owned it was from the Rain Man soundtrack. I know the choice is now cliched. But we went out for 18 months (1994-1996), broke up, then got together at the end of 1998 and married in May 1999.

When I was wooing her again, I made her a mixed tape. Such a quaint device. I no longer have any idea what put on that collection. Knowing me, it probably had God Only Knows by the Beach Boys.

She only remembers one song, I believe, and that is Have A Little Faith in Me by John Hiatt, my favorite song by him.
And when your back’s against the wall
Just turn around and you will see
I will catch, I will catch your fall baby
Just have a little faith in me

What else might I have put on? I Only Have Eyes for You by the Flamingoes is highly probable.

The rest is speculation. How about Betcha By Golly Wow, maybe by Aaron Neville rather than the Stylistics, because I didn’t have the latter on CD.

Finally, a song I doubt I put on, but would now: Let’s Make More Love by Nat King Cole, from the Billy May Sessions, released in 1993. Oddly, the composer is listed as Unknown.

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