Heartland-rock icon John Mellencamp recently disclosed the reason he left Columbia Records back in 2001, with comments made during an interview with Howard Stern on SiriusXM. He sets the scene as taking place during the period in which he released 2001’s Cuttin’ Heads. The album, which was his first on Columbia Records, included a single “Peaceful World” that featured vocals by soul singer India.Arie and the title track (a song about an interracial couple) included a verse by Chuck D of Public Enemy.
Mellencamp goes on to describe a meeting between his manager in which the head of Columbia Records gripes about the new music, stating “I don’t know why Mellencamp insists on having these [n-words] singing with him. It makes it impossible to get him [on radio].”
He went on, describing his conversation with the manager after the meeting. “He goes, ‘Well, [former Columbia Records Senior VP/Marketing & Media] Larry Jenkins lost his job over it cause he stood up and said you can’t say stuff like that.” He then reminded Stern’s audience that at the time of this incident, Columbia Records was making the majority of their money off of R&B and hip-hop artists.
Mellencamp continued the story by telling Stern that as soon as he learned of the incident, he called his lawyer (Allen Grubman) and demanded he “get me off this label… now.” The story concludes with Mellencamp explaining his next record, a cover album titled Trouble No More that featured blues and folk songs, was simply released to get out of his contract with Columbia.
He does not explicitly mention the record executive by name, Billboard posits that it is likely an allusion to former Columbia president Don Ienner. It would not have been the first incident for the music executive, as George Michael filed a lawsuit against him for using a homophobic slur to refer to the British pop singer.
Hear “Peaceful World” below:
The interview with Stern was a promotional effort for his new album Sad Clowns and Hillbillies (which will be released on Republic Records), a collaborative effort with Carlene Carter. The album will drop April 28th, 2017.
Sad Clowns and Hillbillies
Battle of Angels
Grandview ft. Martina McBride
What Kind of Man Am I
All Night Talk Radio
Sugar Hill Mountain
You Are Blind
Early Bird Cafe
My Soul’s Got Wings