Mellencamps Cursed for Questioning the War

From: Vanity Fair

If Mellencamp has become inured to the chilly treatment that he sometimes gets from the music industry, he and his family were caught off guard by the undercurrent of hostility that rolled their way in Bloomington when he began to voice his anti-war feelings in 2003. Not long before the official start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Mellencamp wrote new lyrics for “Baltimore to Washington,” Woody Guthrie’s version of a traditional tune first popularized by the Carter family, and renamed it “To Washington.” Using pretty much the same plainspoken language found on Freedom’s Road, he sang about the tainted 2000 election and the roll-up to the war, including this verse:

And he wants to fight with many
And he says it’s not for oil
He sent out the National Guard
To police the world
From Baghdad to Washington.

The song, which was included on Mellencamp’s May 2003 album of reworked blues and folk standards, Trouble No More, made news even before it was released. In the fall Mellencamp and his wife, the supermodel and photographer Elaine Irwin-Mellencamp, landed in the headlines again when they posted an open letter on his Web site, mellencamp.com, titled, in part, “It’s Time to Take Back Our Country.” The Mellencamps called for an end to what they described as the “political ‘hijacking’ of Iraq” and the chilling effect on free speech that had crept into the national discourse. Though they were spared the kind of public thrashing that the Dixie Chicks got that March when lead singer Natalie Maines told a London concert audience that she was “ashamed the president of the United States” is from Texas, the Mellencamp family’s politics did not go unnoticed on their home turf. Elaine Irwin-Mellencamp recalls the time that she, her husband, and their sons, Hud, 12, and Speck, 11, were driving in town when a local radio station played “To Washington” and invited listeners to comment, prompting one man to call up and say, “I don’t know who I hate worse, John Mellencamp or Saddam Hussein.” Mostly, the criticism was implied in the cold stares and whispers of some of the locals whom the Mellencamps encountered on a regular basis.

A few times, the rocker’s clan found themselves on the wrong end of some drive-by mudslinging. Because their 60-acre compound, with its stucco mansion, sits on the serene Lake Monroe, Irwin-Mellencamp says a number of boaters floated near their banks and shouted obscenity-laced tirades at the house. Irwin-Mellencamp won’t forget the time that a boat carrying a profanity-spewing….

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Related: An Open Letter to America: It’s Time to Take Back Our Country
by John & Elaine Mellencamp

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