John Mellencamp Had to Ask Bob Dylan to ‘Quit Calling’ Him: Here’s Why

by TK Sanders

John Mellencamp, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who first gained fame with a ferociously funny stage name, eventually became one of music’s most respected singer songwriters. Known for catchy guitar hooks and Americana-laced lyrics, Mellencamp wrote and recorded many more songs than just Jack & Diane or R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.

His style and expertise were so revered, in fact, that the greatest songwriter in history, Bob Dylan, used to call him up late at night and bounce ideas off of him.

“Bob used to call me up in the middle of the night and read his lyrics to me that he was working on for new records,” Mellencamp recalled during a recent interview. “And I finally told him, ‘Bob, would you quit calling me, because I’m not gonna say anything. I’m not a good sounding board because I like everything you do. I’m happy to hear this stuff, but I’m not that great of a sounding board.’”

Mellencamp, who just released his 24th studio album of his career, obviously enjoys a close relationship with Dylan if lyrics were at stake. For Dylan, who has penned dozens of classics in every genre imaginable over the past 60 years, lyrics are the lifeblood of his creativity. Mellencamp elaborated on the relationship, noting that his admiration for Dylan transcends most other musicians.

“There’s very few guys I ended up admiring, musically; Bob is definitely one of those guys. And I’m happy to say I have a good relationship with him,” Mellencamp said.

Mellencamp also said that he enjoys a similarly good relationship steeped in admiration with another music heavyweight: Bruce Springsteen. The Boss actually joins Mellencamp on three of the songs from the aforementioned new record (Strictly a One-Eyed Jack). So their music sensibilities go further than just mutual respect; they overlap and compliment each other in some ways.

John “Cougar” Mellencamp can’t believe how much classic songs are worth

When asked about the current industry trend toward cashing out and selling entire catalogs, which both Dylan and Springsteen did in the recent months, Mellencamp said he supports the decision.

“My opinion is it’s a good idea to do that, because if you leave it to your heirs, it’s just gonna cause trouble,” he said. “If you leave them money they’ll know what to do with that. But they’re not gonna know what to do with songs, y’know?

Only Bob Dylan knows what to do with Bob Dylan songs. Only Bruce knows what to do with his songs.

“I mean, [Bruce has] got one kid who’s a fireman; how’s he gonna know, ‘Should we allow this to be in this movie’ or whatever? They don’t know. It’s a big burden to put on your kids, and I think it’s very fortunate that these guys can (sell) like that.

“At one point it was so important to have ‘legitimacy,’ being in a rock band. Now it doesn’t seem mean as much. I mean, who ever thought these songs would be around this long and have this kind of value? I sure didn’t.”

Mellencamp hasn’t sold his catalog as of yet, but he said he’s open to the idea.