John Hiatt is one of those musicians whose impact on music is far greater than the average fan could ever know. Like John Prine or Billy Joe Shaver, even if you don’t know Hiatt’s music, if you listen to folk, contemporary blues or Americana, chances are one of your favorite musicians is not only a fan but may have recorded one of his songs. Jeff Healy did and had his biggest career hit. The same can be said of Bonnie Raitt; And so, have Rosanne Cash, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Ry Cooder, Jimmy Buffett, Iggy Pop (yup, that Iggy Pop!) and many more.
Have A Little Faith is a fantastic primer on one of the most underrated musicians working today. Hiatt was raised in Indiana, and despite some strong friendships his childhood was far from tragedy free. He idolized his older brother who eventually molested him and died of suicide when John was nine years old. Hiatt’s father died two years later. Hiatt found comfort in music, first as a fan and then as a musician himself.
Inspired by folks like Dylan he took off for Nashville at 18, where he tried to get a publishing deal selling his songs to others while he tried to build up his own profile as a singer. His career had several false starts, he signed a deal with MCA and then Geffen and eventually A&M before landing at his current home at New West. While others were having a lot of success with his music (first Three Dog Night, then eventually Rosanne Cash,) his own solo career ebbed and flowed; he became friends and musical collaborators with Cooder, Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe. Tragedy came back into his own life shortly after he had his first child (daughter Lilly, herself a supremely gifted singer and songwriter), he went into rehab, emerged clean but had drifted apart from his wife at the time who, like his older brother, took her own life, leaving him with a baby he had no idea how to care for.
Hiatt has since married again, raised a family and continues to write phenomenal albums while not on tour. Michael Elliot does a remarkable job of synthesizing the life story of Hiatt digging deep into his childhood, his lean years starting out in Nashville and his evolution to one of the most consistently reliable songwriters working today. Have A Little Faith is a compelling look at a remarkably compelling character. Hiatt’s legacy was cemented decades ago with songs like “Have A little Faith,” “Thing Called Love” and “Angel Eyes,” and yet, based on his last few albums, he’s still got plenty more to prove.