In 2012, the vocalist and songwriter John Mellencamp was fixed the John Steinbeck Award, presented annually to an artist, thinker, activist, oregon writer whose enactment exemplifies, among different virtues, Steinbeck’s “belief successful the dignity of radical who by condition are pushed to the fringes.” The grace of the marginalized is simply a long-standing taxable of Mellencamp’s writing. The musician, who comes from Indiana and began releasing records successful the precocious nineteen-seventies, is known arsenic a populist soothsayer, an irascible and unpretentious spokesperson for hardworking, rural-born folks. Yet Mellencamp has besides bristled astatine this characterization, which is mostly rooted successful fantasy: men gazing wistfully retired the windows of vintage pickup trucks, watching particulate stroke by, listening to immoderate parched and distant vigor station. The representation of specified “real,” non-coastal Americans has go a utile cudgel for conservatives looking to picture their opponents arsenic élitist buffoons; Mellencamp finds this grotesque. “Let’s code the ‘voice of the heartland’ thing,” helium told Paul Rees, whose satisfying biography, “Mellencamp,” came retired past year. “Indiana is simply a reddish state. And you’re looking astatine the astir wide motherfucker you know. I americium for the full overthrow of the capitalist system. Let’s get each those motherfuckers retired of here.”
Besides sharing Steinbeck’s governmental radicalism, Mellencamp besides possesses his instinctive cognition of conscionable however desolate adjacent the sweetest beingness tin feel. “All large and precious things are lonely,” Steinbeck wrote successful “East of Eden,” from 1952. “Sometimes emotion don’t consciousness similar it should,” Mellencamp sang connected the azygous “Hurts So Good,” from 1982. Mellencamp turned seventy successful October, and this period helium is releasing “Strictly a One-Eyed Jack,” his twenty-fifth album. “Wasted Days,” the archetypal single, a duet with Bruce Springsteen, is astir the despair of aging. “How tin a antheral ticker his beingness spell down the drain? / How galore moments has helium mislaid today?” Mellencamp rasps. “And who among america could ever spot clear? / The extremity is coming, it’s astir here,” Springsteen adds. Mellencamp’s dependable is shredded from decades of cigarettes—it remains an illicit delight to ticker him fume hungrily passim an full 2015 quality connected the “Late Show with David Letterman”—and his look has turned agelong and craggy nether his trademark pompadour.