Examiner.com: John Mellencamp honors Bruce Springsteen at the Kennedy Center

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 gospel choir).

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 down further to finish the first chorus a cappella, he loudly counted off the beat and kicked the band into high Springsteen rock gear (there was a great cutaway to show Brubeck slapping the rhythm on his knee), then finished it again a cappella.

“Born in a dead man’s town,” he sang, reprising the song’s opening couplet. “The first kick I took was when I hit the ground.” He left no room for seeing the song as anything but a disillusioned Vietnam vet’s protest--so clear in Springsteen’s lyrics, but so typically overlooked in its unintended misuse as a patriotic anthem.

“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 his web site Mellencamp.com 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 wildest dreams that he’d someday be honored in this fashion. I’m glad to have been there to acknowledge the influence he’s had on all of us.”

In remarks that were edited out of the two-hour broadcast, Indiana native Mellencamp reportedly recalled how in 1973, he first heard a new artist’s music being played in a local record store, then went up to the clerk and asked who the artist was. After being told it was Bruce Springsteen—and that the album was the store’s only copy of The Wild, The Innocent & the E Street Shuffle—he asked if he could buy it.

It was the best $3.99 he ever spent, Mellencamp said, then dedicated his version of “Born in the U.S.A.” to the soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

John Mellencamp Born In The USA Bruce Springsteen Tribute

Click HERE to read the article on Examiner.com.

Click HERE to watch the video in HD on youtube.