His latest, and 23rd album is called, “Sad Clowns & Hillbillies.”
To watch the music video of John Mellencamp’s “Grandview” (featuring Martina McBride), from his new album, “Sad Clowns & Hillbillies,” click on the video player below.
The critics have taken notice. Pauley asked, “Do you read ’em?”
“Nope. I’m finding this out from you!”
“They’ve been really, really good.”
“I don’t care,” Mellencamp said. “Doesn’t matter to me. If you care about the good ones, then you’ve got to care about the bad ones.”
His music has changed over the years… and so has his name. From the 1970s through the ’80s, he was John Cougar. His first manager thought it would sell more records.
To hear “John Cougar” perform “Hurts So Good” click on the video player below:
For a while, he went by John Cougar Mellencamp.
To hear “John Cougar Mellencamp” perform “Rain on the Scarecrow” click on the video player below:
But by the early ’90s, the “Cougar” was gone.
At times overtly political, Mellencamp songs about freedom, struggling farmers, and the working man led fans to make assumptions. “Quite honestly, that’s one of my biggest disappointments,” he said. “You would think with all the goddamn people in the world, that somebody would have taken the time to sat down and listen to my lyrics to my songs one time.”
“Pink Houses,” for instance, is not a red-white-and-blue anthem:
“There’s winners and there’s losers
But they ain’t no big deal
‘Cause the simple man, baby
Pays for thrills, the bills, the pills that kill
Oh, but ain’t that America
For you and me
Ain’t that America
Something to see, baby
Ain’t that America
Home of the free, yeah.
Little pink houses
For you and me
Oooh, little baby
For you and me”
“Your fans are probably way, way, way on the spectrum to the right of you,” said Pauley.
“Oh, I’ve been booed,” Mellencamp said. “When the Iraq War started, I was so against that.”
If John Mellencamp sounds like one self-assured son-of-a-gun, she is the reason why: “Here’s the trick, if you want a kid that has confidence: my grandmother told me every day of my life, ‘Buddy, don’t forget: you’re the handsomest, luckiest, talented boy in the world.’ The flip side of that is, it’s really hard for girlfriends to compete with that!” he laughed.
It’s an acknowledged fact that relationships have been a struggle.
Pauley asked. “What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from the women in your life?”
“Too many to name. Apparently, women just don’t like me very much. That’s all I can say about that.”
He’s been linked in recent years to perennial cover girl Christie Brinkley and actress Meg Ryan — and before them, three wives. He has five children and nine grandkids.
He’s been smoking, by the way, most of his life — since he was 10.
As he looked for another cigarette, Pauley noted, “You have a voice to protect. Don’t you? Or is it just getting better and better?”
“Are you kidding me? Have you ever heard my voice, honey? It’s fantastic! Are you kidding me? I sound like a black guy singing now.”
“I mean, that’s what I wanted. I wanted to sound, you know, like Louis Armstrong. But I didn’t. I sounded like a white guy. And now I got it. These are my babies, c’mon!”
He says he doesn’t worry so much about cigarettes and his health. He’s got a strange theory: “Rightfully or wrongfully, I believe that it’s the combination of cigarettes and alcohol that get people — the two of them combined.”
And he hasn’t had a drink, he says, since college.
“It’s probably a wacky idea, but it comforts me!” Mellencamp said. “Now that I’ve said that, two weeks from now you’re gonna read: ‘Mellencamp dies of heart attack’!”
He’s already had a heart attack, at 42. And he does think about mortality.
“I’m 65 years old. I can see the finish line from here. I only have so many summers left. And I intend not to waste them being old.”