John Cougar Mellencamp is what I would consider a traditional classic rocker to the bone. There is no bullshit to his music, it’s straight forward from the heart pure rock n roll, the way it should be played. And it has worked for him as he has sold over 40 million records worldwide.
The first time I saw Mellencamp was on Saturday Night Live in the late 70′s. Back then he was known as John Cougar. The record company didn’t like his name so they wanted to “spice” it up. He played their game but it would take some twenty years before he got his name back. I was impressed with his stage performance even if it was just 2 songs.
I finally got to see him perform live some twenty years later. And true to form his music was straigt forward rock n roll right to the bone. No hi-tech equipment needed here, just his vocals, the bands instruments and some backup singers were all that was needed. And I would swear to you he played a 2 hour set and you would have known every song.
Mellencamp would be what I refer to as a throwback artist, he keeps the music simple and to the point which is so rare nowadays . The LP that I would personally say would identify Mellencamp the best would be his classic album “Scarecrow”, which he released in 1985. On the title song “Rain On The Scarecrow” Mellencamp sings about the plight of the American farmer.
So pure is Mellencamp to his words that in that same year of 1985 he was one of the founding members of Farm Aid, which has raised nearly $40 million to promote a strong and resilient family farm system. Coming from the heartland of America, Seymour,Indiana Mellencamp seems like he has never forgotten where he came from. He seems like he never lost touch with the common man, the common people. Many of his songs are about the common folk with everyday lives, something that a lot of rock stars seem to have forgotten about.
Being the purist that he is and always being the voice of the unheard, in 1991 he was awarded the Robbins Silver Clef Special Music Industry Humanitarian Award. For me watching this great artists career, I would have to say no one deserves it more than this man. He did win a Grammy Award once, he was rightfully so inducted into the “Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame” in 2008, he did receive the prestigious Classic Songwriter Award at the 2008 Q Awards in London, England. But I would have to say Billy Joel said it best about Mellencamp when he inducted him into the “Hall Of Fame”.
“Don’t let this club membership change you, John. Stay ornery, stay mean. We need you to be pissed off, and restless, because no matter what they tell us—we know, this country is going to hell in a handcart. This country’s been hijacked. You know it and I know it. People are worried. People are scared, and people are angry. People need to hear a voice like yours that’s out there to echo the discontent that’s out there in the heartland. They need to hear stories about it. They need to hear stories about frustration, alienation and desperation. They need to know that somewhere out there somebody feels the way that they do, in the small towns and in the big cities. They need to hear it. And it doesn’t matter if they hear it on a jukebox, in the local gin mill, or in a goddamn truck commercial, because they ain’t gonna hear it on the radio anymore. They don’t care how they hear it, as long as they hear it good and loud and clear the way you’ve always been saying it all along. You’re right, John, this is still our country.”
That to me sums up John Mellencamp… a great stage performer, a great musician, a great American who loves his country but more than anything about this great artist is how true and pure and honest he speaks his mind and let’s his feelings out in the words of his songs.
Enjoy it while he is still around because you may never again see an artist like John Mellencamp. Honest musicians are hard to come by.