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In Praise of Musician John Mellencamp

PHOTO: ABC News

It is pleasant on occasion to focus an article on someone who took the high road throughout his career. John Mellencamp was one of the most straight-shooting and righteous performers of the last half century. I see Mellencamp as a cultural icon and observer, and I have always been a huge fan.

He produced and performed a populist brand of heartland rock (aka roots rock), which emphasizes traditional instrumentation. Mellencamp rose to fame in the 1980s and “honed an almost startlingly plainspoken music writing style.” Starting in 1982, came a string of Top 10 singles, including “Hurts So Good,” “Jack & Diane,” “Crumblin’ Down,” “Pink Houses,” “Lonely Ol’ Night,” “Small Town,” “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.,” “Paper in Fire” and “Cherry Bomb.”

Unlike the current crop of Luciferian social-engineering degenerates, Mellencamp was involved in positive activism. As an Indiana native and resident, he started Farm Aid concerts that have remained an annual event over the past 34 years. As of 2019, the organization has raised over $53 million to promote a strong and resilient family farm system of agriculture.

In 2003, Mellencamp became one of the first entertainers to speak out against the Iraq War when he released the song “To Washington.”

John recounts, “When the song first came out, I was in the car one day, and we were driving to the airport and I had my kids with me and a radio station was playing ‘To Washington’ and having callers call in. Some guy comes on and says, ‘I don’t know who I hate the most, John Mellencamp or Osama bin Laden.'”

That pajama-person caller was a prime example of a classic authoritarian follower.

In April 2007, Mellencamp performed for wounded troops at the Walter Reed Medical Center. His original intent was to do a duet on the “Freedom’s Road” track “Jim Crow” with singer and activist Joan Baez. However, Army officials barred Baez from performing.

He told Rolling Stone magazine, “They didn’t give me a reason why she couldn’t come. We asked why and they said, ‘She can’t fit here, period.’ Joan Baez is a 66-year-old woman and the sweetest gal in the world.”

After 5 years together, John Mellencamp, 67, and actress Meg Ryan, 57, announced their engagement in late 2018. PHOTO: DailyBraille.co.uk

In August 2000, Mellencamp played a series of unannounced free concerts in major cities on the East Coast and in the Midwest as a way of giving back to fans who had supported him the previous 24 years. With a lo-fi setup that included portable amps and a battery-powered P.A. system; Mellencamp, armed with an acoustic guitar and accompanied only by an accordionist and a violist, dubbed the jaunt “Live in the Streets: The Good Samaritan Tour.”

John had always been outspoken and adamant about not selling any of his songs to corporations to use in commercials. For some probably sentimental reason, he let Chevrolet use “Our Country” in Chevy Silverado TV commercials in 2006.

In the summer of 2009, the always sentimental Mellencamp embarked on a tour of minor league ballparks with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson that ran from July 2 to Aug. 15.

Rolling Stone contributor Anthony DeCurtis wrote, “Mellencamp’s songs document the joys and struggles of ordinary people seeking to make their way, and he has consistently brought the fresh air of common experience to the typically glamour-addled world of popular music.”

Johnny Cash called Mellencamp “one of the 10 best songwriters” in music.

John throughout his career was able to team up with the leading Americana performers of the era as a measure of his reputation.

After his college years, he never used substances beyond tobacco. He has five children.

Mellencamp was initially saddled with the performing name “John Cougar.” Proud of his German heritage, Mellencamp confessed in a 2005 interview that the name was put on him by some manager.

“I went to New York and everybody said, ‘You sound like a hillbilly.’ And I said, ‘Well, I am.’ So that’s where he came up with that name. I was totally unaware of it until it showed up on the album jacket. When I objected to it, he said, ‘Well, either you’re going to go for it, or we’re not going to put the record out.’ So that was what I had to do … but I thought the name was pretty silly,” Mellencamp said.

When he analyzed his music, he was highly introspective — an almost unheard trait in modern society. His biggest self-criticism about a song he produced: it wasn’t organic enough.

It was really in 1984, when John cut loose from the system and became independent in his own studio, that his unencumbered spirit was more fully revealed. He added fiddle player Lisa Germano to his band, which added an Americana effect.

“Rain on the Scarecrow” lyrics on the video (1985)

“Small Town” (1985) lyrics on the video

Lyrics for “Authority Song” (1987)

2 Comments on In Praise of Musician John Mellencamp

  1. He’s started to grow on me in the past few years. I still put Levon Helm of the Band a tad higher though.

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