One of the resounding themes of this election year is change.
“Change we can believe in” is Barack Obama’s key campaign slogan, and as this is written, the Republicans are hailing John McCain’s vice presidential choice Sarah Palin as a “change agent.”
Be that as it may, this remarkable moment in our nation’s history has for very many evoked the sense of hope from 40 years ago, when for a brief moment leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy truly embodied change.
That moment was musically foreshadowed in 1964 by the title track of Bob Dylan’s third album, “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” But this veritable battle-cry for a generation (“Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call”) has never seemed more timely than now. And now John Mellencamp, with this homemade, Web site-only performance, offers it to a new generation at a time of renewed hope.
Dylan, of course, was one of Mellencamp’s biggest influences.
Mellencamp performed “Like A Rolling Stone” during 1988 “Lonesome Jubilee” tour stops (a live version of the song was included as a B-side) and also sang it and “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” for “The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration” at Madison Square Garden in 1992 (both songs are included in the commemorative album). Also that year he performed “All Along the Watchtower” on “MTV Unplugged” and in 2003 he did “Highway 61 Revisited” at shows and for “Sessions @ AOL.”
He covered Dylan’s “Farewell Angelina” on his “Rough Harvest” album, and even directed the video for Dylan’s “Political World” track from his 1989 album “Oh Mercy” (if you look closely you can spot Mellencamp’s guitarist Mike Wanchic playing in Dylan’s band). Both artists also appeared in “A Vision Shared: A Tribute To Woody Guthrie & Leadbelly,” a 1991 documentary including performances by artists influenced by the two folk music legends (Mellencamp, like Dylan before him, was hugely influenced by Guthrie).
As for “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” Mellencamp’s “Peaceful World,” which addressed racism and saluted the words of Dr. King, echoed the Dylan song’s most powerful line (“Please get out of the new [road] if you can’t lend your hand”) with “if you’re not part of the future then get out of the way.” Here, on this new Web site exclusive, he goes directly to the source in reliving the once-again relevant ideals of the past.
- jim bessman