The Woody Guthrie Center® pays homage to John Mellencamp by drawing connections to Woody Guthrie in a pocket exhibition.
Though born 39 years and over 700 miles apart, the connections between Woody Guthrie and John Mellencamp may be closer than they appear. The Woody Guthrie Center looks to highlight some of these similarities as part of a larger refresh to its smaller exhibit spaces throughout the museum.
“Most people might shortsightedly think of Mellencamp’s ‘Jack & Diane’ and mistake it as a pop song rather than a Midwesterner’s reverence to the innocence found in small-town, working-class youth,” said newly appointed director Cady Shaw. “With a closer look, you’ll find Mellencamp has been weaving threads of Heartland charm with folk-steeped storytelling and heavy-mitted activism through his lyrics, paintings and advocacy his whole life. From co-founding Farm Aid in 1985, touring for free on sidewalks and public parks across America in 2000, to reworking Bob Dylan’s 1964 ‘Only a Pawn in Their Game’ to reflect the racial turmoil following the murder of George Floyd in 2020 — Mellencamp has consistently been an active voice for the greater good.”
In addition to photographs and album covers, the exhibit displays a large painting by Mellencamp, depicting Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie; as well as the musician’s guitar, adorned with a similar, though more profane, sentiment carved into the body as Guthrie had famously done to his own.