Mellencamp Music A Convention Hit

John & Elaine Mellencamp with Michelle & Barack Obama
4-22-08 Campaign Rally, Roberts Stadium, Evansville, IN
Photo By Brian Bruner for

“Pink Houses” proved the perfect entrance song when Sen. Joe Biden came out to accept the Democratic Party’s vice presidential nomination Wednesday night. But it was only the latest instance of a John Mellencamp song being used for campaign purposes.

John & Elaine Mellencamp with Barack Obama
Farm Aid 2005, Chicago IL
Photo By Rick Diamond

Indeed, Mellencamp’s popularity with presidential aspirants has been widely noted. An Aug. 2 article in Newsweek reported that both Hillary Clinton and John Edwards used “Our Country” as a lead-in during the primary. Clinton also emerged to the strains of “Small Town” (Edwards’ 2004 campaign theme), according to a May 13 feature in the British daily The Guardian that even wondered if the 2008 election will one day be remembered as “The Battle for John ‘Cougar’ Mellencamp” (and actually suggested “Pink Houses” as “the perfect Mellencamp tune” for the eventual Democratic nominee).

In Newsweek, Mellencamp expressed surprise when Clinton capped her farewell speech in June with “Thank You,” an obscure original that he’d completely forgotten about—but has since added to his concert sets. However, the avowed Democrat was less enthused by Republican exploitation of his music: When John McCain started playing “Our Country” and “Pink Houses” at his rallies (clearly unaware of their populist themes), he was informed of Mellencamp’s progressive Democratic stands and immediately pulled them from his playlist. Fellow conservative contender Mike Huckabee likewise gave up his tie-in with “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.”

Mellencamp, of course, has performed on behalf of Edwards, Clinton and Obama. He first met Obama, incidentally, at Farm Aid 2005 in Chicago.