”It’s just like anything: Once you make enough mistakes, you understand what the penalties are,” Mellencamp says, referring to the departure of Granucci and their two daughters, Teddi Jo, 13, and Justice, 8, in 1989. ”Back then I had the best of both worlds. I’d come home to Indiana, had two beautiful kids, a nice wife, the whole bit. Out on the road I was still 19. And (Vicky) just got sick of it. Can’t blame her. So I lost my kids. I thought, man, what have I done?”
~ John Mellencamp
July 15, 1994
It meant something in the 80s to see Johnny Cougar driving his vintage convertible with the top down and music blasting down Kirkwood Street in Bloomington. It was some years later before I realized Cougar wasn’t his name at all, but something cooked up by music promoters. Mellencamp scored his first big hit my junior year at JEB Stuart High School with “I Need a Lover” and became a household name among rock and roll fans, including nearly all of us living and learning at Indiana University in Bloomington in 1982, with the release of American Fool.
The album became a hit a year after the end of his 12-year marriage to Priscilla Esterline, the girl he’d gotten pregnant and run off with as a rebellious teenager struggling to find and define himself beyond the small town world of Seymour, Indiana where his dad was vice president of Robbins Electric.
Within months of an amicable divorce from his teen sweetheart, he was married again, this time to Vicki Granucci, who gave Mellencamp two more children. The couple divorced in 1989, reportedly as Mellencamp continued to struggle between the challenges of the tranquil home life he cherished and the temptations of tours that had him recall the reason he picked up a guitar in the first place.
”How many guys you know in rock bands that have been divorced?” he questioned in 1994. ”There’s a reason for that. I don’t care who you are or who you think you are, you’re gonna fall into the pitfalls of that sooner or later. It’s rock and roll. I mean, what other reason would a guy ever pick up a guitar as a teenager?”
This weekend, Mellencamp and his third wife, supermodel Elaine Irwin-Mellencamp, announced that they were calling it quits on their 19-year marriage, telling fans:
“John and Elaine Mellencamp are proud of their 20 years together and are very happy with their accomplishments both as parents and as a family. They will continue to raise their two children in Indiana but have decided to call it a day as a couple.”
Mellencamp’s 1989 album, Big Daddy, included two personal songs related to his feelings over his divorce from Granucci and the loss of his dreams for his family: “Void In My Heart” and “Big Daddy of Them All.” At the time, critics considered Big Daddy to be one of Mellencamp’s darkest albums.
“I’ve heard the word dark used to describe it, but I think sober is more like it,” Mellencamp told Rolling Stone’s Elysa Gardner. “That record was based very firmly in my reality–if reality is dark, then I’m sorry.”
Here’s hoping John Mellencamp finds the peace and happiness for which he’s long been searching.
“Void In My Heart” Lyrics
by John Mellencamp
There’s a void in my heart
I can’t seem to fill.
Been a parent, had three children
And a big house on the hill.
Hundred dollar in my pocket
And it didn’t buy a thing.
Now there’s a void in my heart
And a hole in my dreams.
Well I poured miles of concrete
And strung wire for telephones,
Dug ditches when I was a young boy
When I first left my parents’ home.
Sang my songs for millions of people,
Sang good and bad news,
Now there’s a void in my heart
And a fire at my fuse.
Well I did everything just like they said
So I could find happiness.
Went to school and got a college degree
And at my job I did my best.
As I sit here alone tonight
I see a billion just like me
With a void in their hearts and running from eternity.
There’s a void in my heart I can’t seem to fill.
I do charity work when I believe in the cause
But in my soul it bothers me still.
Hey, Lord, well you made me like I am.
Can You heal this restlessness?
Will there be a void in my heart
When they carry me out to rest?