02/15/2010 - By Mike Leonard - Commentary - There was a point before the musical program
at the White House last week when John Mellencamp looked around the room and
wondered, “What am I doing here?”
The singers and performers assembled were mostly African-American and rightly
so. The program was put together in recognition of Black History Month and
titled, “In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music from the
Civil Rights Movement.”
Morgan Freeman, Smokey Robinson, Natalie Cole, Yolanda Adams, the Five Blind
Boys from Alabama. That all made sense. All had either lived through the civil
rights era of the late 1950s and ‘60s or lived it vicariously through family
members and mentors.
Of the three white entertainers there, Bob Dylan clearly belonged. When he wrote
“The Times They Are A-Changin’,” the civil rights movement was very much on his
Joan Baez helped galvanize the aspirations of blacks and whites with her
ethereal version of the spir Read More
02/12/2010 - A complete, unedited version of John's performance of "Born in the U.S.A." from December's Kennedy Center Honors segment celebrating the music of honoree Bruce Springsteen has surfaced.
The four-minute clip really stretches out the song, which opens slowly with John on acoustic guitar, Kenny Aronoff clapping tambourines, and Andy York inserting electric guitar licks before the houseband gradually joins in, maintaining a mostly acoustic simmer for the first two before John cuts it off for at the two-minute mark for 30 seconds of a cappella Vietnam reminiscence. He then kicks it off into the full-fledged rock anthem made famous in Springsteen's hit version.
“I was very proud and humbled to have been able to play ‘Born In The U.S.A.’ in a different fashion--that I think was true to the feelings that Bruce had when he wrote it,” Mellencamp told us shortly after the program was taped on Dec. 6. “As just some kid in New Jersey making records, I bet he never imagined in his wilde Read More
02/10/2010 - Accurate predictions of the second major snowstorm in a week caused the
scheduled Feb. 10 taping of “In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of
Music from the Civil Rights Movement” to be moved a day ahead. But John's
performance of "Keep Your Eyes On The Prize," the hymn that became a major civil
rights anthem and was recorded by the likes of Mahalia Jackson, Odetta and Pete
Seeger, was commended by both The Washington Post and The New York Times.
John prefaced a simmering rendition of the classic--which featured his acoustic
guitar part on his vintage 1932 Martin buttressed by Andy York's electric guitar
play--with a brief personal remembrance.
"In 1966 I was 14 years old," he said, then asked the attendees in the East Room
of The White House whether they had any children, and if so, if they'd let their
own 14 year-old "get in a car with a bunch of 21 year-old guys and go to a bar
and play when they were 14, or go to a college and pl Read More
02/09/2010 - John returns to Washington, D.C. along with notables like Bob Dylan and Smokey Robinson, for the 2010 White House Music Series which begins this Wednesday, February 10th.
Hosted by President and Mrs. Obama in the White House East Room, the “In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement” concert event will celebrate Black History month. Other artists slated to perform include Dylan, Robinson, Natalie Cole, Jennifer Hudson, John Legend, Seal, the Blind Boys of Alabama and the Howard University Choir, with Morgan Freeman and Queen Latifah serving as emcees. Following opening remarks from the President, it will feature songs from the Civil Rights Movement as well as readings from famous Civil Rights speeches and writings.
John will sing “Keep Your Eyes On the Prize,” an anthem of the civil rights movement that has been recorded by the likes of Mahalia Jackson, Odetta, Pete Seeger, and Mavis Staples. Read More
02/04/2010 - Last week’s MusiCares Person of the Year gala honoring Neil Young in Los Angeles
was a joyous occasion, says Andy York, who played guitar on John’s tribute
performance of his Farm Aid co-founding partner’s classic “Down By the River.”
“Kenny Aronoff played a cocktail drumkit we brought in from Indianapolis, and
Don Was played upright bass and T Bone Burnett played this beautiful electric
vibe guitar,” says York. “We rehearsed the song a couple times during soundcheck
and it really felt like a band from the first note. It was a blast playing
John, he notes, “sang with the conviction that he’s famous for.”
He adds: “We tried to make the song more spooky even than Neil’s original—with
tremelo guitars and the cocktail drums and the upright bass all supporting
John’s vocal delivery.”
John was the first performer in an all-star lineup that also included Ozomatli,
Jackson Browne, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Sheryl Crow, Elton
J Read More
01/29/2010 - HBO Home Entertainment will release “The Official Inaugural Celebration DVD,” containing the pre-inaugural “We Are One” concert presentation along with the first-ever Neighborhood Ball and Barack Obama’s swearing-in ceremony and inaugural address, on April 13. Endorsed by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, the special edition two-disc collector’s set runs approximately 230 minutes and is priced at $19.97.
Accompanied by Andy York, John performed an exultant version of “Pink Houses” that had the huge crowd singing along with them and the Brookland Baptist Choir (Columbia, S.C.) behind them. President-elect Obama and Mrs. Obama and Vice President-elect Biden and Dr. Biden were equally thrilled.
01/27/2010 - John returns to Washington, D.C. to sing with the likes of Bob Dylan and Smokey
Robinson when The 2010 White House Music Series begins on Wednesday, February
10. He will also perform earlier that day at a companion workshop.
Hosted by President and Mrs. Obama in the White House East Room, the “In
Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights
Movement” concert event will celebrate Black History month. Other artists slated
to perform include Natalie Cole, Jennifer Hudson, John Legend, Seal, the Blind
Boys of Alabama and the Howard University Choir, with Morgan Freeman and Queen
Latifah serving as emcees.
John will sing the hymn “Keep Your Eyes On the Prize,” which became a major
Civil Rights anthem and has been recorded by the likes of Duke Ellington
featuring Mahalia Jackson, Odetta, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen,
and Mavis Staples. He will be accompanied by T Bone Burnett.
The concert will be taped live by public TV Read More
Ever since Simon Cowell’s decision to step down at the end of the current season of “American Idol,” entertainment bloggers and prognosticators have speculated as to who will take his place as the belligerent judge. And any number of stars have been suggested (or suggested themselves), everyone from La Toya Jackson to “America’s Got Talent” judge Piers Morgan (the 2-1 favorite, according to gambling site Bookmaker.com) to Elton John, whose rep quickly came out to nix the idea.
On Thursday, blogger Nicole Caminiti broached the inevitable in her “John Mellencamp: the Perfect Replacement for Simon Cowell on American Idol” piece. (LINK)
“I have followed this man's career for over 20 years and truth be told, I feel like I know him,” she wrote by way of explanation, no doubt expressing what many of Jo Read More
01/16/2010 - John will appear in DIRECTV’s first in a series of four one-hour “Farm Aid
Presents” specials taped at Farm Aid 2009, to air on The 101 Network on DIRECTV
over the next few months.
“Farm Aid Presents Jason Mraz & Friends” premieres on Monday, Jan. 18, at 9 p.m.
Eastern Time and Pacific. It features performances by John and fellow Farm Aid
board member Willie Nelson, as well as the full Farm Aid set from Mraz and songs
by Will Dailey. It airs in both high definition and surround sound.
The Mraz special will be repeated throughout the rest of January and Feburary.
DIRECTV originally aired Farm Aid 2009 live from the Verizon Wireless
Amphitheater in Maryland Heights, Mo., just outside of St. Louis. Ambassador
Entertainment Inc. produced the live presentation and the “Farm Aid Presents”
Subsequent broadcasts of “Farm Aid Presents Jason Mraz & Friends” on The 101
Network are scheduled as follows:
01/12/2010 - John’s recent characterization here of his hugely ambitious “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County” musical theater collaboration with Stephen King as “very complicated” has been borne out by media confusion over the nature of the project.
In an effort to clarify, John, King and producer T Bone Burnett are finishing up the recording process for the deluxe three-CD set featuring the full text of the libretto and a recording of the music and script. The CD components involve the entire production—music and dialog—on two discs, with a single disc containing just the songs.
The set is still on track for release prior to the musical’s scheduled opening next September at Atlanta’s Alliance Theater. As has been reported, the production team has assembled a stellar cast to record the songs, including Kris Kristofferson, Elvis Costello, Rosanne Cash, Sheryl Crow, Neko Case, Dave and Phil Alvin. The casting of the Atlanta stage presentation is also underway.
01/08/2010 - Number 18. 'Life, Death, Love & Freedom' (2008)
'Life, Love, Death and Freedom' is one of John Mellencamp's best albums…period. Its themes, lyrics and arrangements cut right through your soul. Even at fourteen-songs, Mellencamp has crafted a lean and reflective album with some of his most ingenuous and illuminating lyrics ever committed to tape. More importantly, he's found a way to properly present them thanks to the guided hand of producer T-Bone Burnett. The poignancy of his lyrics hasn't been this compelling in eons. One listen to "Longest Days" will leave you emotionally drained as his reedy voice reveals layers and elevates what is already magnificent poetry to art that is relevant to the here and now. These songs ring true to Mellencamp's ideologies and the themes in his larger body of work. T Bone Burnett's subtle production pulls you in and doesn't let go. The entire album is bursting with divine lyrics which find a common ground of redemption. There's a lot of life in these Read More
12/31/2009 - Not meaning to slight fellow honorees Robert De Niro, Mel Brooks, Dave
Brubeck and Grace Bumbry, but the concluding tribute to Bruce Springsteen at the
32nd annual Kennedy Center, shown last night on CBS, really was the showstopper.
After Jon Stewart’s very funny and personal introduction and a heartfelt homage
from paralyzed Vietnam War veteran and Born on the Fourth Of July author Ron
Kovic, John Mellencamp commenced a round of Springsteen songs, to be followed by
Ben Harper and Jennifer Nettles (“I’m On Fire”), Melissa Etheridge (“Born To
Run”), Eddie Vedder (“My City Of Ruins”) and Sting (“The Rising,” backed by a
But where the others delivered comparably standard versions, Mellencamp started
“Born In The U.S.A.” as a folk song, backed by his acoustic guitar, minimal
electric guitar support from his guitarist Andy York, and subtle tambourine
percussion from the house band’s—and Mellencamp’s former longtime drummer--Kenny
Aronoff. After slowing it Read More
12/29/2009 - In celebration of the start of our 6th year, John Mellencamp's official fan club, ClubCherryBomb.net, and John's hometown of Seymour IN are proud to offer a one of a kind prize package. The grand prize is a personal tour of Seymour by Mayor Craig Luedeman!
Seymour will roll out the red carpet for the grand prize winner. First, the
Mayor will present you with a copy "The Roots of an American Rocker," the new
audio CD tour of Jackson County. Produced by the Jackson County Visitors Center
the tour takes you various Mellencamp related sites in and around Seymour. The
Mayor will then personally guide you through a limo tour of Seymour and Jackson
County. You will stop for lunch at Larrison's diner downtown, site of several
scenes in John's 1992 movie Falling From Grace. In the afternoon you will visit Read More
12/28/2009 - Earlier this month, John was the first of several artists performing musical tributes to honor Bruce Springsteen at the Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, D.C. He was followed by Ben Harper, Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland, Melissa Etheridge, Eddie Vedder and Sting. John's contribution was a slowed-down performance of “Born in the U.S.A.” which morphed, mid-way, into a full rock version of Springsteen's anthemic signature song.
The annual Kennedy Center Honors Gala, which recognizes artists for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts, is the highlight of the Washington cultural year. The special airs on CBS as a two-hour primetime special on Tuesday, December 29 at 9:00 p.m. (ET/PT).
Click HERE to learn more about John's tribute and see the list of the other honorees.