Small Town

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"Small Town"
JCM - Small Town.jpg
Single by John Cougar Mellencamp
from the album Scarecrow
B-side"Small Town" (acoustic version)
ReleasedNovember 2, 1985
RecordedBelmont Mall Studio, April 17, 1985
GenreHeartland rock, roots rock
LabelRiva Records
Songwriter(s)John Mellencamp
Producer(s)John Mellencamp, Don Gehman
John Cougar Mellencamp singles chronology
"Lonely Ol' Night"
"Small Town"
"R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A."

"Small Town" is a 1985 song written by John Mellencamp and released on his 1985 album Scarecrow. The song reached #6 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart[1] and #13 Adult Contemporary.


Mellencamp wrote the song about his experiences growing up in a small town in Indiana, having been born in Seymour, Indiana, and living in Bloomington, Indiana, which, at the time of the release of the song, was larger. The music video has references to both towns.


"I wrote that song in the laundry room of my old house," Mellencamp told American Songwriter magazine in 2004. "We had company, and I had to go write the song. And the people upstairs could hear me writing and they were all laughing when I came up. They said, 'You've got to be kidding.' What else can you say about it?"[2] Mellencamp later told The Wall Street Journal that he had written the lyrics using an electronic typewriter that beeped whenever he misspelled a word, which had amused the people listening upstairs; however, they were silenced when he played the song to them.[3] In 2013, Mellencamp told Rolling Stone, "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 or enjoy your life.' 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."[4]

In popular culture[edit]

NBA legend and fellow Indiana native Larry Bird used the song during his retirement ceremony in 1993, referring to his hometown of French Lick, Indiana, as a "small town." The Sports Illustrated-produced VHS tape NBA Superstars featured a highlight reel of Bird set to the song.

While he was married to Elaine Irwin, Mellencamp would change the lyrics from "married an L.A. doll and brought her to this small town/Now she's small town just like me" to "my wife was 13 years old when I wrote this song/Now she's small town just like me." Irwin was 18 years Mellencamp's junior, so she was a teenager when Mellencamp wrote the song in the mid-1980s, although they didn't meet until 1991. The "L.A. Doll" Mellencamp sings of in the original version was his then-wife Victoria Granucci.

"Small Town" was also used as the theme song for the Discovery Times documentary series Off to War, which covered Arkansas Army National Guard soldiers, most of them from rural Clarksville, Arkansas, during their tour of duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom.


  1. ^ Small Town at AllMusic
  2. ^ Zollo, Paul (January 1, 2005). "John Mellencamp Interview". American Songwriter. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
  3. ^ Myers, Marc (22 June 2016). "Born in a 'Small Town': How John Mellencamp Wrote the Song". News Corp. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  4. ^ "John Mellencamp: My Life in 15 Songs". Jann Wenner. 23 December 2013. Retrieved 20 June 2018.

External links[edit]