"Jack and Diane"
American Fool, 1982
It was 1980, and I was down in Miami again, making a record. We had spent $300,000, and I had three songs done. The record company was not happy. Finally the president of the company came down and was like, "You're spending money like crazy!" He went nuts. The three songs were "Jack & Diane," "Hurts So Good" and "Hand to Hold On To." He hated them. Hated them! He said, "We expect you to become the next Neil Diamond. What is this shit?"
"Jack & Diane" was originally about race. I was playing nightclubs and I was seeing new American couples, mixed-race couples. I thought it was cool. The song was my effort to make a song about that, but of course the record-company guy didn't like it. He said, "Maybe if you put some horns on this song and really build the chorus up, then maybe you have a shot. But take the race thing out."
I took his advice and made Jack a football star. I think people, particularly in the Midwest, really identified with these characters. I can't tell you how many people have come up to me and said, "I'm Jack and I'm Diane. You wrote about my life." To me, that's a successful song.