Walk tall through this world
–John Mellencamp, “Walk Tall”, 2004
I was born in a small town. Taught the fear of Jesus in a small town. Believe it or not, I lived in an eight-room farmhouse, baby. (And no, I am not embellishing the facts.) When I speak, I have a southern drawl. I’ve walked the fence while Grandpa held my hand. I’ve poured miles of concrete, dug ditches, and gotten too drunk on Saturday. (Down the Dixie Highway, back home.) You know, just growing up under normal conditions, television and radio. Just about all of this whole world that any of us get to see, get to know. But it’s good enough for me.
Best advice I ever got? Forget all about that macho shit and learn how to play guitar.
And I fight authority because authority fucking deserves it. J.M.’s Questions remain identical to my own. I cannot forget from where it is I come from. I cannot forget the people who love me.
I’m glad to say I’ve enjoyed every day of the full catastrophe of life.
And I think fiddles and accordions belong in rock ‘n’ roll. Damn straight they do. That’s America. It’s something to see, baby.
So I can relate to John Mellencamp. Listening to him is like reading my autobiography. I grew up with him like I grew up with me.
I could never relate to David Bowie or Sting or Elvis Costello. I might like their music, but I’m not in it. They don’t hand me a mirror. If I dig, I just get lost. But John Mellencamp—shit, he’s a guy from small town Seymour, Indiana. I understand that. I get that. He does what mid-westerners do: they buckle down and do the fucking job.
Right now, you’re probably humming 12 or 13 different John Mellencamp songs. They’re falling off your tongue as fast as your memory can smile. You know them by heart because you’re in them. He put you in the music. That’s the point.
I’m another boring romantic, that’s me. Mellencamp, however, strikes me as an unsentimental type, so I’ll just say this:
Thanks for the mirror, John. You were right. Everyone needs a hand to hold onto.
PHOTOS BY STEPHANIE FRANKLIN (The Ryman Nashville, Tennessee 1-28-15)
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Michael Franklin is the Media & Reserves Specialist at Western Kentucky University’s Visual & Performing Arts Library (VPAL). Michael is also a professional musician and sound engineer. He is currently recording his 6th CD with his best friends Screenlast 6.0 and Audacity Sourceforge. He thinks Iggy Pop is the greatest singer in the history of music. If you disagree, you’re wrong. You better ask somebody.
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