2008.02.13 Mellencamp and McCain

Written by David Green.

Musician to senator: no conservative listeners wanted


It’s early in the year and there is a lot of time left in the presidential race, but I’ve got a contender for the strangest news of the campaign. Did you see the headlines last week concerning John McCain’s use of John Mellencamp’s music during political gatherings?

It seems that Mellencamp and his management are upset about Senator McCain’s campaign using his music since they feel Mellencamp’s beliefs are far different than McCain’s. I didn’t realize that you couldn’t play music by an artist that differs with your political views, but that is apparently the gospel according to Mellencamp. At least, I think that’s what Mellencamp means, even though his publicist’s statement on the matter is a bit confusing.

A recent Associated Press story said that Mellencamp learned that his music was being used at McCain events, prompting a   letter to the Arizona senator’s campaign from Bob Merlis, Mellencamp’s publicist, asking, “Are you sure you want to use his music to promote Senator McCain’s efforts?...Logic says that the facts might prove to be an embarrassment, were they to be circulated widely.”

I’m not quite sure what Merlis is trying to say here. Are the embarrassing facts about Mellencamp’s music or McCain’s campaign? And is he offering to be the one to circulate them widely?

It turns out that Mellencamp was a supporter of former candidate John Edwards and told Merlis that he was “uncomfortable” and “couldn’t imagine McCain would want to be associated with him” when he heard some of his music was being used by the McCain campaign.

Merlis later told the AP, “You know, here’s a guy running around saying, ‘I’m a true conservative.’...Well, if you’re such a true conservative, why are you playing songs that have a very populist pro-labor message written by a guy who would find no argument if you characterized him as left of center?”

What is McCain supposed to do? Check out the political leanings of every recording artist possible and listen to and play music only by those who agree with him? Should any politician have to go through that hassle?

And even if Mellencamp can’t imagine that McCain would want to be associated with him, is it possible that McCain just might be more open-minded than Mellencamp? Is that the embarrassing fact that Merlis didn’t want circulated?

Besides, was it really common knowledge that Mellencamp was such a “left of center” artist with a “very populist pro-labor message?” It wasn’t a big shock to me, but that might come as a surprise to the folks at Chevrolet who paid him big bucks to use his music in commercials. Would a true populist write a song for the commercial use of a giant corporation, then include it on a album and make us common people pay him a second time?

I could be wrong, but I suspect that McCain might not be a fan of Mellencamp’s music in the first place. Someone in his campaign probably chose the music as I’d guess the senator has more important things to do with his time. At least I hope so.

I’d hate to have to go through the Mellencamp test with my own CD collection. There’s quite a few that I’d probably have to get rid of if I could only keep the ones by artists whose politics match mine. I wonder if Merlis would like to buy back a few million or more albums, cassettes and CDs from people who didn’t realize only liberals were allowed to listen?

It’s too bad for McCain that he can’t play the saxophone like Bill Clinton or guitar like Mike Huckabee. Then he could provide his own entertainment at campaign events. I’m not sure how good a guitar player Huckabee really is, but there probably haven’t been any complaints as long as his pal Chuck Norris is around to punch out any music critics.

Maybe McCain will have to settle for a simple name change. Mellencamp has a history of changing his name every few years, so how about McCain changing his? Let me think about this a minute...I think I’ve got it. Senator John “Cougar” McMellencain. Yeah, the thought of that just might make John Mellencamp hurt so good.

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