John Mellencamp – Small Town

I always liked this song because I could/can relate to it. I grew up in a small town where everyone knew everyone else. It had its drawbacks but was a great place to grow up.

Mellencamp wrote this about his experiences growing up in the small town of Seymour, Indiana. The media portrayed Mellencamp as the champion of small-town America when the song was released. While he has remained true to his roots and often returns to Seymour, he claims he was simply writing about his life, and not trying to make a statement.

The song is on what I always thought was his best album Scarecrow. Small Town peaked at #6 in the Billboard 100 in 1985. Scarecrow peaked at #2 in the same year in the Billboard Album Chart.

From Songfacts

The music Mellencamp listened to growing up in the ’60s was a huge influence on his work, and he often put bits of classics songs from that era in his tracks. On the bridge of “Small Town,” you can hear the riff from The Supremes song “Back in My Arms Again.”

Mellencamp believes this was a hit because it makes people feel good. He thinks many of his songs don’t do well because they make people confront problems, like the plight of American farmers.

Mellencamp would sometimes add the line “My wife was 13 years old growing up in a small town when I wrote this song,” referring to his wife, the model Elaine Irwin, who is 17 years younger. The couple split up in 2010.

Mellencamp wrote this song after having a number of conversations with folks from New York who seemed to think he – and everyone else from the middle of the country – was a rube. “I wanted to write a song that said, ‘you don’t have to live in New York or Los Angeles to live a full life,'” he told Rolling Stone in 2013. “I was never one of those guys that grew up and thought, ‘I need to get out of here.’ It never dawned on me. I just valued having a family and staying close to friends.”

Small Town

Well I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Probably die in a small town
Oh, those small communities

All my friends are so small town
My parents live in the same small town
My job is so small town
Provides little opportunity

Educated in a small town
Taught the fear of Jesus in a small town
Used to daydream in that small town
Another boring romantic that’s me

But I’ve seen it all in a small town
Had myself a ball in a small town
Married an L.A. doll and brought her to this small town
Now she’s small town just like me

No I cannot forget where it is that I come from
I cannot forget the people who love me
Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town
And people let me be just what I want to be

Got nothing against a big town
Still hayseed enough to say
Look who’s in the big town
But my bed is in a small town
Oh, and that’s good enough for me

Well I was born in a small town
And I can breathe in a small town
Gonna die in this small town
And that’s probably where they’ll bury me

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

17 thoughts on “John Mellencamp – Small Town”

  1. One of my favorite Mellencamp songs–I can’t think of many artists- who changed like he did- I thought he was a joke until “Jack And Diane” and then the “Un-Huh” album–then he really improved….. btw- I picked up the latest issue of Uncut Magazine- and the review of the upcoming album by The Who- got 9 out of 10 points!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The Couger was his Kryptonite lol.
      That is great about The Who album! I didn’t think as much of Endless Wire…I love what I’ve heard off of this one.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Funny thing is my feeling is somewhat close to opposite of Observationbloggers- I liked his stuff, by and large in the 80s buthave really taken to it a whole lot more of late…seems authentic and , just ‘real” somehow. this song I’ve always liked, a great life statement and good video too, even though I grew up on outskirts of a metropolis. (actual town where I spent most of my childhood had population of 24 000 when I was young, and with not so much mobility, many knew each other around the neighborhood) but was right beside a city of 90 000, and just down highway from Toronto. those two towns I grew up with now have a pop of about 275 000 so it makes me shake my head when people refer to them as having a “small town feeling” these days.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I grew up in a small town. I just looked up the population…as of right now it is 4,538…That shocks me …I thought it was triple that…so that means in the 70s and 80s it was probably half of that.
      Like you though we are 30 minutes or so to Nashville a bigger city…but nothing compared to Toronto… so I get best of both worlds.
      We also live near Clarksville so we have larger towns on both sides of us….

      That is some growth in your childhood town!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. yeah, in some ways saddening, because so much woodland and farmland is being gobbled up by wall-to-wall housing but they are lucky still… GM used to “own” the city so to speak and has now abandoned it, but unlike other GM cities across the border, there was enough there for the city to keep chugging along somewhat unscathed.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I know what you mean. Progress isn’t always progress… our town has brought a lot of different businesses now and it is growing and taxes have risen and yes what was open fields are not anymore.


  3. I loved the song when it first came out. My area decided to play it to death & I got tired of it, quickly. It took me a while but, I can enjoy it, again.

    Growing up in Burlington, definitely small town back then. Living in Hillsborough, VERY small town. Love it.

    I’ve worked in several big cities but, loved retreating to the “country” in relative comparison.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know if you saw my comment to Dave…I knew the town I grew up in was small but my gosh… the population now is 4,538…I thought it was more than that! That means when I was a kid it was probably half of that.
      We live between Nashville and Clarksville so a bigger city is always pretty close.


      1. I scanned the comments but, didn’t pipe in. In 1970, Burlington was 35,930 so, your small hometown beats mine. Hillsborough? In 1970, it was 1,444. In 2010, it was 6,087, just before I moved here. 2020? Census coming up. The est. for 2018 is 7,239.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. sorry I hit send for some stupid reason… I would bet my city would be around your Hillsborough back then…and we are the capital of our county. Like I said I was totally shocked that this one is that low now. I just looked it up and back in 1990 it was 2,552… so who knows what it was when I was a kid.


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