John Mellencamp on politics and music - :"One man who has no problem being seen as someone who shoves ideas down people’s throats is John Mellencamp. For more than 20 years, the Indiana singer has been dismantling the name, image and sound his early managers pushed on him, burying Johnny Cougar the hick heart-throb and establishing in his place a songwriter and campaigner who, like his contemporary Bruce Springsteen, belongs in the front rank of politicised American music-making. Like Springsteen, too, he has seen a steady decline in his record sales: his new album, Life Death Love and Freedom, is unlikely to garner the platinum discs of old. Yet, as with the Boss, Mellencamp still performs to sell-out audiences."
Mellencamp has suffered for his stance. When he released the unambiguously anti-Bush song To Washington in 2003, things got nasty in the small town in Indiana where he lives with his third wife and their two sons.
“People turned on me,” the singer says. “The police had to show up at my kids’ school and stand guard when they were outside, because the school had gotten threats. I don’t think they’d do that today, but back then it wasn’t long after 9/11, and people were bloodthirsty.” His new record, a haunting 14-song set, produced by T-Bone Burnett, that looks unblinkingly at the concepts and realities listed in its title, could not, with the world’s financial system going to the brink, have been better timed — and Mellencamp, unlike Fall Out Boy, is happy for it to be seen that way. This doesn’t mean that his standpoint is not still being questioned or misunderstood. “I did an interview with someone recently,” he chuckles, “who said, ‘Don’t you think at times like this that people just want to sing and dance?’ And I said, ‘You know, when all else fails, when it’s Sodom and Gomorrah, singing and dancing’s fine. If you really think these are the final days, well, f*** it, then, let’s just sing and dance and screw. But I don’t think that’s where we’re at.’ ”
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