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John's Big Breath of Fresh Air - Listen Online
03.31.2009 - John's first major interview of the year aired March 31st on NPR's "Fresh Air" program. The segment was entitled "John Mellencamp, The Modern Mortal."

The approximately forty minute interview-John's first substantial Q&A since the election-was conducted by "Fresh Air" Host Terry Gross. John appeared via digital line from his Belmont Mall studio and performed solo acoustic renditions of several classics, songs from his latest album "Life, Death, Love and Freedom," and a few of his favorite songs from his youth.

--jim bessman His performance of "Early Bird Café," which he sang at the end when Gross asked him to play a song he did not write, has already generated supportive web response, particularly from those who recognized a relatively obscure song that even Gross was unaware of. John knew it from a self-titled 1970 album from the Jerry Hahn Brotherhood, a pioneering rock-jazz group led by guitarist Jerry Hahn. The song’s writer Lane Tietgen had previously recorded the song in his band The Serfs’ album, which was produced by Bob Dylan’s producer Tom Wilson.

John said he would play “Early Bird Café” any time he was handed a guitar at a party. Other highlights of Gross’s penetrating interview include his comments on his songwriting hero Dylan, the theme of immortality that runs through “LDL&F” and much of John’s preceding work, and his observations on the craft of songwriting: “Life has become a song for me,” he said, declaring that everything he sees in his life is fair game for a song.

Here he also related that he essentially writes four songs—at least in terms of themes. They are race, mortality, girls (“I’m too old to do that now!”) and the government. And he illustrated his contention that all his songs are folk songs “dressed up in a certain way” to get played on radio, further pointing out that because they are arranged and produced in order to fit in with the radio sound of the time (“Pink Houses,” he noted, was a huge hit despite its anti-Reaganomics stance), one must “lift up the veil of a lot of songwriters’ songs” in order to know what’s really being said in them.

The most revealing moment in a most thoughtful 40 minutes? The first record John bought was Chubby Checker’s “The Twist”!

Click HERE to listen to John's entire visit on NPR's website.

One of public radio's most popular programs, the Peabody Award winning "Fresh Air" is a weekday magazine of contemporary arts and issues. It is produced at WHYY-FM in Philadelphia and heard by nearly 4.5 million listeners on over more than 450 National Public Radio (NPR) stations across the country, as well as in Europe on the World Radio Network.

Gross is considered among the country's leading interviewers. Incidentally, she will share her greatest and most memorable interviews during an appearance at Indiana University in Bloomington on April 8th.

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