John Mellencamp, Los Lobos 

Conseco Fieldhouse
Saturday, Nov. 3, 6 p.m. doors, $47-$87, all-ages

In honor of Johnny Cougar Mellencamp’s homecoming gig at Conseco Fieldhouse this Saturday, Nov. 3, NUVO has put together the top 10 reasons why Mellencamp continues to mean so much to so many and thus why he deserves a place in the Rock ’N’ Roll Hall of Fame after this, his third nomination.

He’s got great songs. “Jack and Diane” and “Pink Houses” are the deserving classics, but dig deeper, and his catalog of timeless songs is never-ending. From “Crumblin’ Down” to “Minutes to Memories” to recent tunes like “Peaceful World” and “The Americans,” there has never been a Mellencamp album without at least one classic tune.

He’s got awesome stage shows. Mellencamp didn’t get his nickname “Little Bastard” for no reason. His perfection and vision have required fellow musicians who can follow his every whim and be able to stop and start on a dime. Mike Wanchic may just be one of the more underrated guitarists in rock, and other, former band members like Lisa Germano and Kenny Aronoff have gone on to be highly regarded session players and recording artists in their own rights.

He features skillful female violinists. Lisa Germano was the first one, followed by Miriam Sturm, who has played with the band since the early ’90s. When players get into a fiddlin’ frenzy, it’s like having a hillbilly belly dancer on stage. Not to mention the violin has shaped just about every Mellencamp album since Big Daddy.

He brought back backup singers. Not just content with hot fiddlers, Mellencamp also used hot soul sisters as backup singers to better effect than any rocker since Elvis Presley.

He is socially conscious. ASCAP recently announced that they would reward Mellencamp with its ASCAP Foundation Champion Award for music in the service of humanity for his involvement with Farm Aid. Mellencamp has always been sort of a modern-day blue-collar champion, and he has written his share of protest songs, including the recent “Jena” about the racial tensions in Jena, La. But since Scarecrow, Mellencamp has been the farmer’s hero, articulating the farmer’s plight like no other rocker. Nowadays, with huge factory farms feeding 90 percent of the nation, his fight continues.

He never left his roots
. He might have left for New York to get famous, but he ended up changing his name to Cougar and getting the shaft by David Bowie’s manager and the corporate music machine. So, Mellencamp returned home and never left. His videos have always featured images from Indiana, and his movie, State of Grace, was set and shot here. Even though he’s worth a bazillion dollars, he still lives in a modest multimillion-dollar mansion on the shores of Lake Monroe. He also still makes most of his records at an old converted barn — the Belmont Mall Studios.

He always puts music first. Never flashy nor trendy, Mellencamp has blazed his own trail and always put music first, which is why now — nearly 30 years after his first hit — Mellencamp enjoys the integrity and respect few others have. Sure, he may have sold out “Our Country” to Chevy Trucks, but he did it to support his hot model wife. He did not let her sing or write a song or paint a God-awful album cover like Billy Joel did.

He’s got a hot model wife. Hey, the ol’ boy is getting up in years. So, it is nice that he’s got a blonde supermodel to keep him motivated.

He helped create the alt-country scene, and yet, he’s not afraid to try different genres. Mellencamp started out as a second-tier Springsteen/Seger/Petty blue-collar rocker. He escaped that a bit by delving into swaggering rock, but it was on Big Daddy that he combined it with country, folk and blues in a way no other mainstream rocker had before. Thus, he paved the way for artists ranging from Los Lobos to Wilco to The Hold Steady. He has also flirted with dance music, rap and world music, collaborating with musicians like Me’Shell Ndegeocello and Chuck D.

He’s stubborn. When his record company wanted him to sound like Neil Diamond, Mellencamp cut ties and moved back home, releasing what he wanted to, regardless of what the record company wanted. The minor success of Nothing Matters and What if It Did led to American Fool, and by then, he was pretty much golden. Mellencamp’s refusal to play by the rules helped him become a bigger star, and at the same time, he inspired many acts across the board to stick to their guns.

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