John Mellencamp's numerous hits, awards, and recognitions—including his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame—puts him in such celebrated company as Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan. In Mellencamp, David Masciotra explores the life and career of this important talent, persuasively arguing for his space among the most distinguished songwriters of our time.
Beginning with Mellencamp's modest start in Seymour, Indiana, Masciotra details the artist's road to fame, examines his struggles with the music industry, and celebrates the success he found by remaining true to his midwestern roots. With themes that range from small-town life, race, and religion to poverty and the struggles of adulthood, Mellencamp's songs remain central to the social and historical context of contemporary America. Acting as an artistic archivist, he has refused to forget the struggles of workers and Black Americans, and in line with his tributes to 1960s rock and Americana folk, he has summoned his sizable talent and his tenacious heart to tell a story his audience and country need to hear.
From a cultural critic whose work has also appeared in the Washington Post, Atlantic, and Los Angeles Review of Books, this thoughtful analysis highlights four decades of the artist's music, showing how it has consistently elevated the dignity of everyday people, and spanned the genres of folk, soul, and rock and roll to amplify the struggle of democracy.