Famous for writing narrative songs that depict working class life in America, singer-songwriter John Mellencamp has produced a remarkable catalog of songs during a career that stretches back to the 1970s.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has just announced that it will present a special exhibit on his life, art and music. The exhibit, which opens today in the Ahmet Ertegun Main Exhibition Hall, tells the story of “a complex artist who forged his own path – transforming from manager-named “Johnny Cougar” to self-possessed John Mellencamp, a music and visual artist, a champion of heartland values, and an advocate for American farmers.”
The exhibit features artifacts from Mellencamp’s personal collection, including the following: his 1966 silver Honda Scrambler 305 motorcycle; personal photographs; original handwritten lyrics to “Small Town,” “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.,” “Cherry Bomb,” “Pop Singer” and “Longest Days" (Life Is Short)”;
Mellencamp’s main Dove acoustic guitar used in his songwriting sessions and live performances from the 70s through 90s; items related to the recording of his most successful song “Jack & Diane”; performance outfits; six of his original paintings; and selections from an exclusive multi-hour interview with Mellencamp done specifically for the exhibition
“John Mellencamp is one of rock and roll’s most enduring artists,” says Greg Harris, President and CEO of the Rock Hall, in a press release. “His authenticity and ability to tell stories that resonate with multiple generations of fans is a testament to his art.”
“In working closely with John Mellencamp to create this exhibit, it was very clear that he embodies what rock and roll is all about – rebellion, being true to yourself, and of course, making great music,” says Karen Herman, Vice President of Collections & Curatorial Affairs at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. “Not many people know that he’s an accomplished painter, and it was important to bring that element in. Fans can truly see that he’s embraced the life of a true and complex artist.”
Mellencamp, who was inducted into the Rock Hall in 2008, says he considers himself “the luckiest guy in the world” because of the lengthy career he's had.
As a co-founder of the annual benefit concert Farm Aid, he has helped raise money for dispossessed farm families.