Rocker says ‘no’ to Jack and Diane TV, movie offers
Mark Humphrey/associated press
Twenty-five years after charting with a little ditty about Jack and Diane, John Mellencamp says he’s continually hounded by calls from Hollywood and Broadway wanting to turn the ‘80s rock classic into a modern-day show.
“People call me up and they go, ‘Hey, can we make a movie out of Jack and Diane?’” Mellencamp says by phone from his home in Bloomington, Ind., his voice slipping into a whine as he impersonates each plea.
“Hundreds of times. I get calls: ‘Can we make a TV show out of Jack and Diane?’ ... And I have to laugh because, you know, in 1982 when that song came out, people would look at me and go, ‘Oh, if they play that song one more time I’m going to kill myself.’ “
A lot can change in 25 years, even for a lifelong Hoosier who still puts America front and centre in his songs.
He started his career as rebel rocker Johnny Cougar, but lately, the 55-year-old singer-songwriter has been accused of selling out by allowing his music to be used in a TV commercial.
The ubiquitous Chevy Silverado ad, in which Mellencamp’s heartland anthem Our Country plays against a montage of scenes depicting U.S. glories and shames, sparked an immediate controversy when it came out in October. Many questioned the appropriateness of including a picture of civil rights icon Rosa Parks and scenes from Hurricane Katrina among the emotion-laden images, in part selected by Mellencamp himself.
But the roots rocker is unapologetic about breaking a longstanding vow to never sell his songs, suggesting it was the only way to promote his first new album in more than five years, Freedom’s Road, and regain the radio attention that has eluded him in recent years.
“That’s what it takes to get a song to last forever,” Mellencamp says. “I’m not for people selling their songs. I don’t suggest it for anybody else. ... I wanted the song to be heard, I wanted the song to get into the consciousness of people’s lives and there was only one way to do it.”
Mellencamp says traditional ways of promoting music just don’t work anymore.
“It absolutely would not have got played on the radio,” he says of Our Country. “I don’t have any question about it. If you look at any playlist on the United States, who plays 55-year-old folk singers’, rock guys’ songs? Nobody.”
“I tried to make a record that was more of a healing record of hope and tolerance, to say, look, we got sidetracked but we don’t have to be this country of red and blue states and we don’t have to be these people who hate each other because we don’t have the same beliefs,” says Mellencamp.