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.
David Masciotra is a journalist and art critic who has written for numerous publications, including Salon, the Progressive, and No Depression. He teaches at Indiana University Northwest and he is the author of I Am Somebody: Why Jesse Jackson Matters.
Part biography, part cultural and sociological commentary—with a touch of hagiography/fan nonfiction thrown in—Mellencamp is almost a new genre. Masciotra's observations, contributions, and asides are apt and diverse. Both Mellencamp's work and the man himself are deeper than they appear, and this book really shores this up.
~Susan Compo, author of Warren Oates: A Wild Life
David Masciotra writes with the precision and integrity and humanity of a great journalist, one whose word you can trust. He knows his subject, and his prose and reporting are always informed by the lights of compassion and decency.
~James Lee Burke, author of Wayfaring Stranger
For almost 40 years, John Mellencamp has been forging a path through the thickets of the music industry, meditating on the connections between rock, soul, folk and funk. In the process, he's established himself as a major artist whose work is sometimes obscured by the shadows of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. In this detailed, loving book, David Masciotra shines the light of his critical intelligence on the connections between Mellencamp's life, his music, and the commitment to a deeper understanding of our shared humanity.
~Craig Werner, author of Up Around the Bend: An Oral History of Creedence Clearwater Revival
This thoughtful analysis highlights four decades of the artist's music, which has consistently elevated the dignity of everyday people and honored the quiet heroism of raising families and working hard. This first serious biography of the legendary musician will charm fans and music enthusiasts who are interested in the development of roots rock and Americana music.
All readers will enjoy Masciotra's rich writing style, and learn from the impressive array of supporting material he brings to bear on the song lyrics.