"Jack and Diane" is a little ditty by John Cougar Mellencamp, from 1982, about two American kids. It was a number one single for four weeks, and is probably John Mellencamp's greatest hit. In fact, it is one of the songs that is probably at the top of the rotation of many rock and pop stations, based on the fact that it is utterly predictable but still catchy enough and not fingernails-on-chalkboard annoying.
The narrative of the song, follows Jack and Diane, two high school sweethearts in an Indiana of the imagination that would probably scare even real Hoosiers. Jack and Diane are sitting outside a fastfood restaurant, lightly pawing each other. They try not to think about the fact that being 16 and kissing is the high point of their life. Change is coming around real soon, you see, leading them to be "women and men", meaning presumably Jack gets a job at a factory, has a shotgun wedding to Diane, and the two spend the rest of their life staring at cornfields as they both put on weight. There could actually be something profound said about all of this, capturing how little bits of life make the whole thing worth it, even if we aren't destined for much. Kurt Vonnegut, another chronicler of life in Indiana, wrote a book about the very subject of the life of people in rural Indiana who aren't destined for much. But John Mellencamp fails in this song. In a few other songs, he comes closer, but this song never reaches any type of conclusion or resonance.
For me, the funniest lyric in the song is where John Mellencamp solemnly tells us that Jack and Diane are
Two American kids doing the best they can
which leads me to wonder, if some light groping in the parking lot of a restaurant is the best they can do, what is the worst they could have done? Maybe John Mellencamp should have written a song about the real fuck-up lowlives of his mythical Indiana town, that might have been a bit more amusing.
This song came out in 1982, which means it bears the same relationship to the current day that Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley did to the song's release. 27 years later, it still persists in radio play. This song should be heard by 1980s revisionists until they stop thinking the decade was awesome. Yes, Rick Astley is slightly funny, but that is because he was pretty good to start with, and got better when safely wrapped up with irony. But the real 1980s, at least for those of us too young, or stuck too far out to listen to Depeche Mode or The Cure, was to hear songs like "Jack and Diane" on the radio over and over, until they soaked into our brains. In fact, my inspiration for writing this writeup was to get the lyrics to stop repeating in my skull. I only hope I am successful, and that I have not inspired the reader to start humming to themselves.