John Mellencamp: Mr. Middle America

He's been called "the voice of the heartland" — an artist who, after more than two decades of performing, remains true to his Indiana roots.

Rural Anthems

With 21 albums and 29 Top 40 singles, John Mellencamp hit it big with songs like "Jack and Diane" and "Pink Houses." His songs became rural anthems, echoing the struggles and dreams of the working man.

Now the 51-year-old rocker is releasing a new album. Trouble No More comes out Tuesday.

Anthony DeCurtis, contributing editor of Rolling Stone magazine, says Mellencamp songs still reveal the man behind the famous name.

"He speaks very directly for that place and from that place," said DeCurtis. "John has never really left Indiana."

Mellencamp performed two songs from Trouble No More — "Teardrops Will Fall" and "Stones In My Passway" — on Good Morning America.

He told ABCNEWS' Charlie Gibson that he was surprised and elated when his record company approached him about recording the bluesy new compilation of songs.

"The record company asked me to make a record like this and they just don't do that," Mellencamp said on GMA. "It was like, 'John, will you do this type of record.' I jumped at the chance and the opportunity to make a record that I could go in and explore, you know, the history of American music," he said.

Early Musical Beginnings

Mellencamp was born in 1951 in Seymour, Ind., to Richard and Marilyn Mellencamp. He joined rock bands before he even reached age 13. In 1975, he signed a record deal as "John Cougar" — a name he later dropped in favor of his birth name.

Mellencamp's first album was released in 1976. But it was a few years later in 1982 that he really hit the big time with American Fool. It was one of the best-selling albums of the year, and the singles "Hurt So Good" and "Jack and Diane" both reached the Top 10.

Mellencamp has had 36 gold, platinum, and multiplatinum records, in addition to 11 Grammy nominations. He received the Grammy for best rock vocal performance in 1982.

In 1985, Mellencamp helped launch the Farm Aid benefit concerts. Over the years, Farm Aid has given away $15 million.

While Mellencamp has sung about the pain of the others, he has had his own battles. He struggled through two failed marriages and a heart attack in 1994.

"I immediately went into a humongous depression," Mellencamp recalled on VH1's Behind the Music. "I thought I was dead. 'Well, you had a heart attack. That's it. Clock out. It's over.' "

Mellencamp has definitely bounced back from the hard times. He's been married to model Elaine Irwin for 12 years and remains committed to helping those in need while living life and making music on his own terms.