Om John Mellencamp
Long before Prince decided he had it with his regal name, Mellencamp was the original "artist formerly known as." He started his career with the record label-chosen moniker Johnny Cougar before his success allowed him to return to his family name. Early in his career he could have gone by Bruce or Bob, since his first recordings sounded more like Springsteen or Seger than something original. It wasn't until he produced a bushelful of radio hits before he started to mine a territory that was uniquely his own. Mixing '50s rock with more than hint of the blues, soul and R&B, Mellencamp's middle career records stand out not only for music maturity, but also because of his direct populist voice. Starting with 1983'sUh-huh, building with Scarecrow and then becoming fully realized with 1987's The Lonesome Jubilee, Mellencamp told stories of those on the fringes. While perhaps not as subtle as others, Mellencamp's message that all was not well in Regan's America powered him to the top of the charts and into political consciousness. In 1985, along with Willie Nelson and Neil Young, Mellencamp helped found the Farm Aid concert series that provides financial assistance to struggling farmers.