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John Mellencamp Brings New Single To World Series

Of the Oakland Press

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John Mellencamp's route to performing at Game Two of the World Series was circuitous.

The Indiana rocker, who will play his new single, "Our Country," before Sunday's game, said Friday that he was first asked to sing the national anthem.

"I said 'no,' " Mellencamp said. "I can't do that. That song's too hard to sing. But I said 'If you want me to come sing our country, I will,' thinking that they would never go for it.

"A few days later they called up and said, 'OK, come sing 'Our Country.' "

Mellencamp will be backed at Comerica Park by Andy York and Mike Wanchic from his band and the members of the country group Little Big Town. Detroit songstress Anita Baker will sing "The Star Spangled Banner" on Sunday.

Mellencamp is selling "Our Country" -- a rootsy celebration of the durability of the American dream that will appear on his next album, "Freedom Road," in January -- through digital outlets such as iTunes, Napster and Rhapsody. He also licensed it to General Motors for use in its new Chevrolet truck campaign -- the first time he's ever let one of his songs be used in an advertisement.

He says it's a reflection of what veteran performers have to do nowadays in order to get their music heard.

"I think it's the new way for artists such as myself to reach people," explained Mellencamp, who's turned down numerous ad requests over the years for hits such as "Small Town," "Pink Houses" and "Jack & Diane." "They're not gonna play me on Top 40 radio ever again. MTV doesn't even play videos anymore. How do you get it out there and...stay relevant?

"This is what (artists) are going to have to do if they're not 21 years old and they want people to hear their music."

The Chevy ad is a compelling blend of images, including disgraced President Richard Nixon and Hurricane Katrina. Nevertheless, Mellencamp thinks that both the song and the commercial convey "a positive, hopeful message."

"Nobody's seen an advertisement like that before," Mellencamp says. "They've seen John Mellencamp videos like that before, but here is this huge company trying to relate and sell trucks on it.

"It's not the America that we all pretend we live in. You're seeing America as it is, and I think that's pretty gutsy of Chevrolet to do that."

Prior to "Our Country," Chevrolet has used Detroit rocker Bob Seger's "Like a Rock" in its truck ads. "I've always felt a kindred sense with Bob," Mellencamp says of Seger, who's performing "America the Beautiful" at tonight's Game One of the World Series. "Both of us are Midwesterners, and both of us have been outsiders in the music industry our entire careers."

And this weekend, both artists will be Tigers fans.

"I actually like both teams," Mellencamp says, "because these are the teams I grew up watching when I was a kid. But to be real honest, since I'm in Detroit...GO TIGERS!, man."

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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