Scholar Topics and Session Descriptions
David Masciotra – Mellencamp and the Ethos of the Midwest
David Masciotra is the author of five books, including Mellencamp: American Troubadour, I Am Somebody: Why Jesse Jackson Matters, and Metallica by Metallica, a 33⅓ book. He has written about politics, music, and literature for the New Republic, the Progressive, No Depression, and many other publications. He is currently at work on a book examining the politics of suburbia and exurbia, and teaches English at Indiana University Northwest.
Eric Weisbard – Mellencamp and American Popular/Populist Music
Weisbard founded and, for many years, organized the Pop Conference, editing three collections of conference writing. Before that, he was a Village Voice and Spin writer and editor, including overseeing the Spin Alternative Record Guide. Recently, he has co-edited Journal of Popular Music Studies and currently co-organizes the online Popular Music Books in Process series. He’s a professor of American Studies at the University of Alabama and the author of Top 40 Democracy: The Rival Mainstreams of American Music, Songbooks: The Literature of American Popular Music, Use Your Illusion I and II in the 33⅓ series, and the forthcoming Hound Dog in the Singles series.
Courtney C. Blankenship – Mellencamp, His Authenticity Moves Us Forward
Blankenship is an Associate Professor of Music Business at Western Illinois University. Since 2008, her research areas have included music in political campaigns, subscription streaming services, and women in the industry. Recently, she has shifted her focus to personal growth work, writing books, and is a Professional Life Coach. Her career started with attending IU and working at the Bloomington IN Visitors Center.
Pamela Riney-Kehrberg – Rural Crisis, Farm Aid, and Musical Interventions
Riney-Kehrberg is a professor of History at Iowa State University. She is the author of four books: Rooted in Dust: Surviving Drought and Depression in Southwestern Kansas (1994), Childhood on the Farm: Work, Play and Coming of Age in the Midwest (2005), Always Plenty to Do: Growing Up on Farm in the Long Ago (for young readers, 2011), and The Nature of Childhood: An Environmental History of Growing Up in America since 1865 (2014).
Michael Stewart Foley – You've Got to Stand for Something: The 1980s and the Making of Citizen Mellencamp
Foley is a writer, historian, and organizer. For the last twenty years, he held tenured posts at universities in the United States, England, the Netherlands, and France. He is the prize-winning author or editor of eight books, including Front Porch Politics: The Forgotten Heyday of American Activism in the 1970s and 1980s and Citizen Cash: The Political Life and Times of Johnny Cash. His essays and opinion pieces have been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Boston Sunday Globe, on Salon.com and the Daily Beast, and in other news and public affairs outlets. In 2022, he joined Farm Aid as the organization’s first Cultural Impact Director.
Jefferson Cowie – Youth and Social Class in the Midwest
Historian Jefferson Cowie focuses on how class, inequality, and labor shape American culture. His book Stayin' Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class draws together labor, politics, and popular culture to explain the decline of class in American political culture. An earlier transnational history, Capital Moves: RCA's Seventy-Year Quest for Cheap Labor, charts the relocation of one firm through four different cities (most notably, Bloomington, Indiana) in the U.S. and Mexico. His writing also includes The Great Exception: The New Deal and the Limits of American Politics as well as pieces in the New York Times, Time magazine, The American Prospect, Politico, Democracy, The New Republic, Boston Review, The Hill, Chicago Tribune, Dissent, and other popular outlets. His latest book is Freedom’s Dominion: A Saga of White Resistance to Federal Power. He holds the James Stahlman Chair in the Department of American History at Vanderbilt University.
Entertainment Industry Leaders Panel on the Artistry and Career of John Mellencamp
Join John Mellencamp’s closest colleagues from the music industry for a lively discussion about the artist’s career in music and beyond. The panel will focus on John’s craftsmanship, influence, and success, and provide a behind-the-scenes look at over 40-years of visionary artistry from the people who collaborated with him along the way. Learn about John’s role in the early days of MTV, the revolutionary impact of Farm Aid, generational shifts in the pop charts, the influence of digital technology, life on tour, and so much more. Track the evolution of the industry from the people who shaped it from the inside out and learn how one singular star stayed on top of its many twists and turns. The panel will present an intimate look at one of our nation’s greatest singer-songwriters and a career that continues to define the way music and art shape our lives and dreams. Learn more about the panelists here. Panelists include:
Rolling Stone’s Anthony DeCurtis Interviews John Mellencamp
Acclaimed musician John Mellencamp will be interviewed onstage by Rolling Stone Magazine journalist and IU Alumnus Anthony DeCurtis. The discussion will focus on John’s life and influences, his experiences in the studio and out on the road, his songwriting process and musical philosophy, and even his lesser-known successes in painting, filmmaking, and musical theatre. Spend the evening with an artist known for his unflinching honesty and deeply personal writing. No doubt stories will be shared, opinions offered, and tricks of the trade revealed. Mellencamp and DeCurtis have been friends for decades, and their easy banter will be a treat to behold.