From Jake Owen to Jessica Simpson: 10 of the Best 'Jack & Diane'-Inspired Songs

John Mellencamp
Michael Marks/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

John Mellencamp photographed in 1982. 

Life goes on for the John Mellencamp classic.

Very few guitar riffs are as recognizable as the one from John Mellencamp’s '80s rock hit “Jack & Diane,” the story of two American kids just doin' the best they can.

The iconic tune brings listeners back to the carefree days of chili dogs and going to Tastee-Freez, in a way only Mellencamp could. It's no wonder the track has been reused, repurposed and referenced in dozens of songs, most recently Jake Owen’s country-inspired take “I Was Jack (You Were Diane).”

With so many artists putting their own spin on the classic song, check out some of the best versions below.

“Contemporary Man”- Action Bronson

Bronson raps over samples from multiple classic tunes, including songs by Phil Collins and Huey Lewis, in addition to the famous “Jack & Diane” riff.

“I Think I’m in Love With You” - Jessica Simpson

Simpson added a poppy element to her version of the track, adding airy vocals and synth to her version, which was released on her 1999 debut album Sweet Kisses.

“Homer and Marge” - "Weird Al" Yankovic

"Weird Al" Yankovic did his own take on the classic tune, appearing in an episode of The Simpsons and covering the song as “Homer and Marge.” Some standout lyrics include “They say life goes on, long after the grilled cheese sandwich is gone.”

“I Was Jack (You Were Diane)” - Jake Owen

Owen just dropped his own version of the tune, with a country-inspired twist featuring banjo and a twangy electric guitar over nostalgia-filled lyrics.

"I Go Back" - Kenny Chesney

Chesney gives his own little nod to Mellencamp, beginning the song with a reference to the Jack and Diane duo themselves: "‘Jack and Diane’ painted a picture of my life and my dreams/ Suddenly this crazy world made more sense to me.”

“You Were Right” - Built to Spill

Built to Spill’s riff-heavy jam features references to many rock classics, like Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan, in addition to Mellencamp. “Life goes on long after the thrill of living is gone/ You were right when you said this is the end.”

“Hey AZ (So So Def Remix)” - AZ

Jermaine Dupri sampled the riff, with a hip-hop twist, for “Hey AZ/ So So Def Remix,” which was released in 1997.

“Happy to Be Here” - Jadakiss

Jadakiss also added the riff to his upbeat track “Happy to Be Here.” The sample was played over positive lyrics and catchy backing vocals. “I ain't Hollywood, but the 'hood put me first/ So I don't worry about nothin' 'cause it could be worse.”

“Paid in Full (Urban Respray Remix) - Eric B. & Rakim

This 1998 remix features Mellencamp’s guitar riff, played in a higher octave, over heavy drum beats.

“The Air That I Breathe” - Simply Red

A slowed-down, smoother version of the hit rock song appeared in this 1998 reprise of “The Air That I Breathe.”


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