March , 1992
By Cheryl Harris
John Mellencamp… back to the basics
A loner. An enigma. A man who is — at long last making peace with himself.
John Mellencamp has come full circle in his life. By allowing a brash manager to initiate control over his early career, the public was introduced to him as John Cougar. Then John Cougar Mellencamp. Now, taking pride in his German heritage, he's right back where he started, with his original given name.
Mellencamp's music has also made a journey of sorts. His initial sound was that of pumped-up, fun rock songs for mainstream America, then it moved into the mid-80's era featuring a compassionate tribute to the American farmer. The late 80's found Mellencamp with a full-blown production featuring the folk sounds of dulcimer, fiddle, and soulful back-up singers. And his current release, Whenever We Wanted , contains guitar-heavy, crunching rock anthems. Mellencamp has the knack to be always one step ahead of the market, constantly thinking about the next step.
Over the last couple of years, Mellencamp has spent a considerable amount of time expressing his artistic personality via the canvas, in addition to writing songs for his current album. Yet he made time for still another project in the form of Falling From Grace, a movie both directed by and starring Mellencamp. He plays the part of a successful country singer whose personal life is in turmoil — with Mariel Hemingway adding a moving performance — in this epic written by Larry McMurtry of The Last Picture Show fame.
But, he insists, this movie is not autobiographical. The artwork of John Mellencamp is another story in itself. His dramatic work can be found gracing the CD booklet for Whenever We Wanted , albeit in a discreet, understated fashion. It features people with large, haunting eyes — indicating various personalities — and it's obvious they are portraits of people who have lived a life learning from their mistakes.
Not an autobiography, huh?
A seasoned Farm Aid backer, Mellencamp is no longer categorized as a "musician with a cause" but his active mind is constantly plotting the next move.
Born in 1951, Mellencamp was a rebellious Indiana teenager with a less-than-happy childhood, and much of his frustration and confused anger makes itself known in his early work. A self-described "world-class womanizer," he has vowed to remain friendly with ex-wife Vicky, assuring himself the opportunity to watch his kids grow up.
Mellencamp has done some serious soul-searching, and it's taken him a few years to mature and get his priorities in order, but he's coming around.
After all, he's just a singer in a rock & roll band!
John Mellencamp, along with a host of other entertainers including Richard Marx, Paul Simon, and the Black Crowns will be performing at Farm Aid V on March 14 at Texas Stadium. Tickets are available at all Rainbowfficketmaster locations.