The song was written by Mellencamp and George Green, a childhood friend. The song was first conceived, Mellencamp claims, in his shower and the first lines created were those of the chorus written by Mellencamp. He then repeated the lines to Green and they finished the song very quickly.
The song hit number one on Billboard's Hot Tracks mainstream rock chart. It peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 on August 7, 1982 and, although it failed to make number one, it spent 16 weeks in the top 10, the longest time for any song in the 1980s. It was kept off the top spot by "Eye Of The Tiger" by Survivor. The song was listed at #83 on Billboard's Greatest Songs of All Time. The song also reached #39 on the New Zealand Top 50. The song was also a hit in Canada reaching #3 on RPM magazine's Top 50 Singles chart. In South Africa  the song reached number 5.
^Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 8th Edition (Billboard Publications), page 418.
^White, Timothy (1997). "Who's to Say the Way a Man Should Spend His Days: The First Two Hundred Years of the John Mellencamp Story". The Best That I Could Do 1978–1988 (CD liner). John Mellencamp. U.S.A.: Mercury Records. p. 6. 314 536 738-2.