Announcement: Writing Commentary for No Depression

I am happy to report that I will now, on occasion, write essays, reviews, and commentary for the “journal of roots music,” No Depression.

In my inaugural contribution, I review the new record from Chicago-area Southern Rock band, The Righteous Hillbillies, and in doing so, appraise the value of pure rock ‘n’ roll.

Stay tuned for more updates.

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Interview with Daryl Hall, and Follow Up Essay on Right Wing Insanity

I recently interviewed legendary singer/songwriter Daryl Hall for Salon. We had an interesting conversation about a wide range of topics related to his television program, soul music, his career, and the “backward idiots” who run the music industry. I also asked for his insight on the contemporary debate surrounding “cultural appropriation.” When Hall launched a ballistic assault on critics who cry cultural appropriation over everything from dreadlocks to pop music, I replied with the words “I agree with you entirely.”

The conversation then ended on a friendly note, and it is available here.

A few days later, the right wing social media mob created a weird and warped narrative, more indicative of their narrow worldview than anything else, that I attacked Hall with my neutral question, and that by giving an impassioned response, he “destroyed” me.

As much as I hate to get involved with the right wing insanity that occasionally breaks out after I write an essay or conduct an interview, this was too deranged and demented to ignore. I wrote a follow up essay for Salon, which becomes a reflection on the sad and fragile state of most Twitter users.

Read it here.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, everyone. This website has been static for the past two months, and I do apologize for my negligence.

I’ve been busy writing about everything from terrorism to the godfather of heavy metal, Lemmy Kilmister, at Salon and the Daily Beast.

Like everyone else, I too have written about Donald Trump. I’ve written about religion, economics, and politics, but also about more pleasant topics such as the aforementioned work of Motorhead, the literature of Gore Vidal, and the novels of Jim Webb.

The Daily Beast ran an excerpt from my book on John Mellencamp, while my book on Metallica has received press and great reviews from Consequence of Sound, Record Collector, Illinois Entertainer, and the Chicago Music Examiner.

Make sure to follow this space throughout 2016 for more essays on politics, culture, literature, and music, and for a major update on my next book.

Book Signing

Mellencamp: American Troubadour is Now Available!

My new book, Mellencamp: American Troubadour, is now officially available from the University Press of Kentucky, and all book retailers.

Salon recently ran an excerpt, and it is already receiving high praise.

Part biography, part cultural and sociological commentary—with a touch of hagiography/fan nonfiction thrown in—Mellencamp is almost a new genre. Masciotra’s observations, contributions, and asides are apt and diverse. Both Mellencamp’s work and the man himself are deeper than they appear, and this book really shores this up. — Susan Compo, author of Warren Oates: A Wild Life

David Masciotra writes with the precision and integrity and humanity of a great journalist, one whose word you can trust. He knows his subject, and his prose and reporting are always informed by the lights of compassion and decency. — James Lee Burke, author of Wayfaring Stranger

For almost 40 years, John Mellencamp has been forging a path through the thickets of the music industry, meditating on the connections between rock, soul, folk and funk. In the process, he’s established himself as a major artist whose work is sometimes obscured by the shadows of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. In this detailed, loving book, David Masciotra shines the light of his critical intelligence on the connections between Mellencamp’s life, his music, and the commitment to a deeper understanding of our shared humanity. — Craig Werner, author of Up Around the Bend: An Oral History of Creedence Clearwater Revival

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New Article at Splice Today: Ruthie Foster and The Gospel Impulse

One of the most talented, moving, and inspirational singers in American music is the phenomenal Ruthie Foster. More than nearly any other contemporary American singer, she expresses, exercises, and exemplifies what Craig Werner calls the “gospel impulse.” In my new essay for Splice Today, I write about the importance of Ruthie Foster’s music, and the deficit American culture suffers for not giving her a bigger platform to share with the world her unique and powerful voice and vision. Read it here. Ruthie Foster’s new single, “Singing The Blues.”

New Entertainment Writing for The Daily Beast

Recently, I wrote some critical essays for the Daily Beast. The first was on the comeback tour of Garth Brooks. I had the opportunity to interview Brooks for the essay. We discussed his music, his evolving role in country music, and music culture in America. Brooks was a boyhood idol of mine – my first musical love. While I still respect and admire him, I don’t have the same love for his music. That being said, I enjoyed his concert, and was thrilled to meet him. Read the essay here.

Shortly after interviewing Brooks, I had spoke with Sean Jablonski, the creator of the USA series, Satisfaction. Satisfaction, unlike much of American entertainment, intelligently and maturely deals with the complexities of adult sexuality. Jablonski and I had an interesting conversation about his show, sexuality, American culture, happiness, and his own Buddhist inspiration. Read the essay here.

New Essay for the Daily Beast: Bobby Womack’s Sexual Democracy

After the sad death of soul legend, and rhythm and blues, funk master Bobby Womack, I immediately wrote a tribute. Not only was Womack one of my favorite singers, he was also a passionate and powerful advocate for mutual pleasure – sexual democracy – in romance.

Unlike rap and unlike rock ‘n’ roll, but very much like the tradition of soul that formed Womack in the womb of musical greatness, his sexual testimony is one of mutual pleasure. It is an expression of masculinity that gains lasting, body-aching, and spirit-raising pleasure only if the man is comfortable and confident in the assuredness of giving a woman pleasure.

Read the rest of the essay at the Daily Beast.

New Essay for The American Conservative: Rock for Republicans? How the GOP Misunderstands John Mellencamp’s Heartland Ethic

A few months ago, the editors of The American Conservative flattered me with an invitation to write an essay on the the career and politics of John Mellencamp, and consider why so many Republican politicians play his songs at campaign rallies, when he is a liberal.

The essay – “Rock for Republicans? How the GOP Misunderstands John Mellencamp’s Heartland Ethic” – appears in the newest issue of The American Conservative, which has a focus on localism.

Mellencamp writes what he calls “plainspoken” lyrics. There is no other songwriter who moves me to think, feel, and reflect deeply on my life and my community more than Mellencamp. As I attempt to explain in the new essay, his politics, however, are complicated. There is no doubt that he is a leftist, but “his is a community-based leftism that distrusts bureaucracy and hates paternalism, yet believes in social assistance for the poor, sick, and hungry, the widows and orphans that the Bible identifies. Mellencamp inhabits common ground with libertarians on social issues, and he is a consistent opponent of war and foreign intervention, but he does not believe that an unfettered free market will solve every social problem.”

mellencampcigaretteMellencamp’s firebrand version of antiwar, left populism is exactly what is currently missing from the ivy league, elitist, and impotent liberalism of the mainstream media, the Democratic party, and the sanitized neighborhoods of lefty chic where people believe the world’s biggest problems are plastic bags, inadequately sized bicycle paths, and indoor smoking.

Next year the University Press of Kentucky will publish my book All That We Learned About Living: The Art and Legacy of John Mellencamp. In the book, I will elaborate on Mellencamp’s politics and further draw out interpretation of how his music embodies many important ideas about the American story.

Politics will make up only one chapter of the book, as it is comprehensive and covers Mellencamp’s entire life, but readers who enjoy my essay for The American Conservative, should look forward to additional reading next year.

New Essay for The Atlantic – “Kid Rock, Progressive Hero: Why He’s Right to Charge $20 Per Ticket”

In a capitalist culture and free market society, it is hard to make the argument that any business people should voluntarily charge less money for their product or service than people are willing to pay.

Multimillionaire rock and pop stars leave themselves vulnerable to criticism, however, when they claim to represent and sing for the common man, and present themselves as populist defenders of the dignity of everyday people.

It has become the norm for popular bands and artists to charge hundreds of dollars for admission into their concerts. The current model of exorbitant fees exists only because of the greed of the superstars, and the masochism of fans who pay the absurd costs for a two hour performance.

In my new article for The Atlantic“Kid Rock, Progressive Hero: Why He’s Right to Charge $20 Per Ticket” – I condemn the avarice of The Rolling Stones, Jay Z, and other major musicians who suck every ounce of blood possible from their fans, and I reserve special ridicule for U2, Neil Young, and Bruce Springsteen, who charge over $100 for tickets, while they sing about helping the poor and bash the greed of politicians and corporate CEOs.

Kid RockThere are few exceptions to the practice of gouging music concertgoers. Garth Brooks enforces a $25 maximum for his ticket prices, despite incredible demand. Brooks has broken records in Missouri, Tennessee, and Canada in the past five years for fastest sell out times. Dave Matthews explains that if he charges $30 per ticket, he will break even on major tours. So, he charges between $40 and $50.

Kid Rock has emerged as a new exemplar of compassion and selflessness in his business policies by co-headlining a tour with ZZ Top, and promising that no ticket will cost more than $20. He is also lowering T Shirt prices from the laughable industry standard of $40 to $20.

It is important to acknowledge that it is not the “champions of the working class” or “social justice” advocates, like Springsteen and Bono, who are taking a pay cut to help more fans afford their concert experience, it is the registered Republican, Romney supporting, Kid Rock.

As I explain in the article, it is my hope that Kid Rock’s new tour will embarrass other rock and pop stars into lowering their ticket prices, if only so that their anthems of liberal outrage don’t provoke enough laughter to drown out the drumbeat. I also hope that it will encourage more music fans to reward bands that respect them, and punish those that don’t.

Neil Young charged $200 for his latest tour, and when he played Chicago last summer, I asked my friend who owns an independent record store in Northwest Indiana why he wasn’t going to attend the show. He answered with words to live by – “I’m not throwing money at the feet of millionaires anymore.”