Monday, December 12, 2011

John Mellencamp, Classic American Rocker

Every time I drive through Indiana I will har a John Mellencamp song. This isn't so strange when you know that he is actually from Indiana. His music speaks clearly to everyone, but he holds a special place in the hearts of Hoosiers (and former Hoosiers!). Songs such as "Pink Houses" and "Smalltown" sound even better when you're actually driving pink houses in some small Indiana town!

John Mellencamp started out recording under the stage name "John Cougar." He hated that name, and when he became more famous (ie powerful), he went about changing it to his real name. This is why his most well-known albums in the late 80s feature his name as John Cougar Mellencamp. In 1991 he dropped the name entirely.

Mellencamp's biggest hit is "Jack & Diane," which hit No. 1 in 1982. It's a great song about growing up in the Midwest. Jack "does his best James Dean" while Diane is "his debutante in the back-seat of Jack's car." (By the way, James Dean was also from Indiana.) It's a catchy tune and I enjoy listening to it whenever I hear it. However, as I get older the line that means the most to me is this one: "life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone."

Mellencamp is from Indiana, and I lived there for four years when I first came back from Japan. I came across his Greatest Hits collection The Best That I Could Do and listened to it often. When I hosted an exchange student, I bought him a copy of this CD and said, "This is Indiana. THIS is America."

John Mellencamp is also indirectly responsible for me moving to Columbus. In 2004 he was part of the Democratic "Rock The Vote" campaign supporting Senator Kerry over President Bush. One of the tour's stopping points was the battle state of Ohio: namely, in a club in downtown Columbus. I had always wanted to see him, and I am a life-long Democrat, so I decided to make the one-man trek from Hoosier Country to
Buckeye Country. I was SO glad that I did: the show was AWESOME! The venue wasn't an arena, but was bigger than a club. I got my money's worth *and* I got a glimpse of night-time Columbus. I liked it. When I started looking for a new job a few months later, Columbus was high on my list of possible moves.

Participating in "Rock The Vote" was not out of character for him. He was a big proponent of FARM AID with Willie Nelson and Neil Young, the rock charity concerts that helped raise money and awareness about foreclosed farms. His song "Peaceful World" (a duet with India.Arie) rails against hypocrites, racists, and political correctness. His song "To Washington" mocks President Bush for his 2001 election victory. So Mellencamp is a die-hard Liberal in a die-hard Red State, so that's another reason to like him.

My favorite Mellencamp song has always been the following, "The Authority Song." I took it to heart fromt he first time I heard it on the album, "Uh-huh." Whenever I get down I play it or sing it or watch it and get re-energized. It's a great song and a fun video. I hope you agree.

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