Thursday, September 4, 2003

Mellencamp plows ahead for Farm Aid

Q & A

By Larry Nager
The Cincinnati Enquirer

John Mellencamp
In 1985, when John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Willie Nelson started Farm Aid, the benefit concert's goal was to save the family farm.

That remains the focus Sunday, as Farm Aid 2003 comes to Germain Amphitheater in Columbus. The three founders lead a lineup featuring Dave Matthews, Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris, Daniel Lanois, Brooks & Dunn, Vanessa Carlton, Hootie and the Blowfish, Los Lonely Boys, Aaron Brotherton, Titty Bingo and Billy Bob Thornton.

The show is sold out.

To date, Farm Aid has raised $24 million, funding programs from lobbying to psychological counseling. The fight goes on, says Mellencamp.

We've seen the mega-corporate mind-set spread from agribusiness to media, telecommunications, energy and other industries. The battle for the "family anything" seems like a lost cause. Why keep fighting?

The turtle won the race. Never lose sight of that. That chipping away - chip, chip, chip, chip - that's the only way to succeed at anything. If you stop, you lose. The minute you quit, you lose. You can't quit.

How does the money raised really aid the family farmer?

What little amount of money we do raise goes to help a number of organizations across the country. We do some good work with family counseling. Imagine you were on a piece of property your family has owned for 70, 80, 100 years. And all of sudden, you're the guy losin' it. ... Money is given to people to help them deal with their personal problems, as opposed to blowing their brains out.

Which Farm Aid was the best one, so far?

My favorite was the first Farm Aid we did in Indianapolis in 1990. It was the best Farm Aid, maybe one of the best concerts ever held in the world, in my estimation. So many people showed up. It was at the Hoosier Dome. Elton John showed up and played. Guns 'N' Roses played; Lou Reed, Jackson Browne. Everybody was there and everybody really played well.

What are you going to do at Farm Aid this year?

I'm going to not play my hits, I only want to play stuff off my new record (Trouble No More, covers of roots classics). I think the reason people like the record is that it is very simple. There's no digital anything involved.

This year's Farm Aid is sold out, so what can people do who still want to help?

They can send money into Farm Aid (, sure, but I think that if people can just be responsible to themselves, then they'll be making the correct decision and will be helping Farm Aid. If you're in a store and you see a piece of meat that's been wrapped up for 91/2 days, I wouldn't buy it. Chances are it's full of steroids. It's full of growth hormones. When you walk into a grocery store now, all the food looks like children's toys. You have to question, 'What is it that's good for me in here?' "

What are you listening to, just for fun?

I have an iPod that I've had somebody program the best stuff from my CD collection on. And now I have 5,000 songs and I've been listening to that in alphabetical order by song, so I've been listening to very many different artists. And I've been listening to it for four months and I'm only to the L's. I'm in the 'Love' section.


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