Exemplified by the commercial success of singer songwriters Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, and Tom Petty, along with less widely known acts such as Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes and Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers, it was partly a reaction to post-industrial urban decline in the East and Mid-West, often dwelling on issues of social disintegration and isolation, beside a form of good-time rock and roll revivalism. The genre reached its commercial, artistic and influential peak in the mid-1980s, with Springsteen's Born in the USA (1984), topping the charts worldwide and spawning a series of top ten singles, together with the arrival of artists including John Mellencamp, Steve Earle and more gentle singer/songwriters such as Bruce Hornsby. It can also be heard as an influence on artists as diverse as Billy Joel, Kid Rock and The Killers.
Heartland rock faded away as a recognized genre by the early 1990s, as rock music in general, and blue collar and white working class themes in particular, lost influence with younger audiences, and as heartland's artists turned to more personal works. Many heartland rock artists continue to record today with critical and commercial success, most notably Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and John Mellencamp, although their works have become more personal and experimental and no longer fit easily into a single genre. Newer artists whose music would perhaps have been labelled heartland rock had it been released in the 1970s or 1980s, such as Missouri's Bottle Rockets and Illinois' Uncle Tupelo, often find themselves labeledalt-country.