David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 19: John Mellencamp (Rain On The Scarecrow)

May 15, 2020

Despite getting angrier and angrier with the situations in this country that will almost certainly lead to civil war, I know that anger is wasted on the old.  And I am that (old, angry or wasted, you take your pick). With old age comes, I believe, a greater acceptance in the indifference of life and the flaws of humankind. So why get angry?  What will be the use?  Anger is a fuel for the young.

I know I am out of touch with music, but can anyone tell me what is happening in terms of protest singers, protest songs? Is anyone providing a match to that fuel?  Some old fogies still release fantastic music of protest (even if not protest music): Lucinda Williams' release just this month includes multiple songs that fit this category, perhaps none better than "Man Without A Soul," which might be (or might not be) taking digs at a certain soulless leader. Recently, "The Things We Do To Each Other" by The Cowboy Junkies in 2018 moves me beyond words. But, the yout' ain't listening to 'Cinda or Margo.

Sometimes the protest song sneaks up on the young. I remember how newly incensed I felt upon hearing "Rain On The Scarecrow" by John Mellencamp. I didn't particularly care about the plight of the farmer much before 1986, but moving to the lonely landscape of Indiana farm country gave me a perspective that encouraged me to enjoy Indiana's favorite son. All of a sudden, the little shit who made songs that irritated me was making songs that made me want to sign petitions.

I ask today's emerging or popular artists to listen to "Rain On The Scarecrow," channel its energy and give Generation Z something to ignite their united passions.

Look, I can't write the music, but I can chart the lyric. Start by invoking multiple generations of protest music.  Mellencamp did this wonderfully by reminding us of Woody Guthrie's "original" protest song about average Americans being screwed by the country: "This Land Is Your Land."

"This land fed a nation/this land made me proud," Mellencamp sings in the chorus. But it is no longer our land, as "this land financed a nation/this land drew a crowd," in essence to buy the farm at the cheapest possible price.

Whoever is young and hip these days in pop music, look up who Guthrie was, dust off your grandpa's Dylan albums, heed my call to give this Hoosier a chance, maybe even listen to American Idiot a little more closely.

Songwriter, whoever you are and wherever you shelter, be ready also to implore the simplest of lines to remind us that our leadership only cares about power and money.  After all, now more than ever, "there's no legacy for us now." Now, more than ever, we're taking "a man's dignity." Now, more than ever, there's a rich hoss saying "it's my job" as the common man gets screwed.

Actually now that I think about it, today's protest singer only needs to adjust Mellencamp's chorus:

"Orange is the scarecrow/Yellow are those who disavow/

Our land lost its way/this land needs thoroughly plowed/

And son I'm sorry there's no legislature for you now/

Orange is the scarecrow/Yellow are those who disavow/

Orange is the scarecrow/Yellow are those who disavow.

Hmm? Maybe I just need someone to add the music and produce the song. I can be the unknown lyricist. I don't need the fame or money. Whoever does write the music, please don't take away the Kenny Aronoff pulsating drum beat or the slashing interplay of multiple guitars. Oh, and don't you dare forego the creepy baritone drop of voice and bass with your key lyric "Orange on the scarecrow."

Oh, what the hell? Someone call Mellencamp and see if he will do with this song what Elton John did with "Candle In The Wind," rewrite it and let John decide it he wants to donate it to charity or pay the alimony to one of his many ex-wives.

"Rain On The Scarecrow." Scarecrow. John Mellencamp. Riva. 1985.  Video link here.

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Day 20: The Smiths "I Started Something I Couldn't Finish." ->

See full unfinished list here.