The Springsteen-Mellencamp connection

Springsteen Mellencamp

John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen and Annie Lennox in a publicity photo for the 1987 “A Very Special Christmas” album.


Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp were born within a couple of years of each other (1949 and 1951, respectively), began their recording careers in the 1970s, and became most popular in the ’80s.

They also have been viewed, by many rock fans, as kindred musical spirits for decades.

Their paths have crossed several times over the years, and will do again when they both perform at Sting’s 30th Anniversary Rainforest Fund Benefit Concert at the Beacon Theatre in New York, Dec. 9. (For more on that concert, see last item, below.)

Here is a look at 15 moments of their shared history, in chronological order, from 1977 to now.

1. In 1977, Mellencamp (then still known as John Cougar) sang “It’s getting hard to justify my position/When everything I’m sayin’ can be said better by Mr. Springsteen” on a song called “Kid Inside.” It was recorded for an album that was not released at the time, but came out, without Mellencamp’s consent, in 1983, as The Kid Inside.

2. Maybe this is a bit of a stretch, but in a mid-’80s interview, Bob Dylan linked Springsteen and Mellencamp together as two artists who showed that “people can make it and have an individual point of view and get that across on a larger scale.”

3. In 1987, both were featured on the A Very Special Christmas compilation album, which raised money for the Special Olympics. Springsteen contributed “Merry Christmas Baby”; Mellencamp, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”

4. On May 26, 1988, Springsteen sang Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” with Mellencamp at Mellencamp’s concert at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre in Irvine, Calif.

5. In 1988, both recorded tracks for the compilation album, Folkways: A Vision Shared — A Tribute to Woody Guthrie & Leadbelly. Mellencamp performed Guthrie’s “Do Re Mi”; Springsteen, Guthrie’s “I Ain’t Got No Home” and “Vigilante Man.”

6. On Sept. 2, 1995, both performed, separately, at a Municipal Stadium, Cleveland concert celebrating the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

7. In 2004, both men joined the Vote for Change tour, which supported John Kerry in his presidential campaign against George W. Bush. They didn’t perform at the same shows except for one: The all-star concert at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C., Oct. 11. Here’s a video of them both, and many others, performing Patti Smith’s “People Have the Power.”

8. On May 3, 2009, both participated in a concert celebrating Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday in New York. They performed separate mini-sets but can both be seen in this clip of one of the show’s encores, “This Land Is Your Land.”

9. On Dec. 5, 2009, Mellencamp performed Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” when Springsteen received Kennedy Center Honors at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. As is traditional at this annual event, Springsteen, as an honoree, did not perform.

10. Sting and Friends’ Rainforest Fund Benefit Concert, featuring songs and videos from the ’80s and ’90s, took place at the Beacon Theatre in New York on Dec. 9. 2019. In addition to Springsteen and Mellencamp, performers included James Taylor, Eurythmics, Bob Geldof, Ricky Martin, MJ Rodriguez, Shaggy and H.E.R. Springsteen and Mellencamp performed “Glory Days” and “Pink Houses” together.

11. On Mellencamp’s 2022 album Strictly a One-Eyed Jack, Springsteen dueted on “Wasted Days” and also sang on “A Life Full of Rain” and “Did You Say Such a Thing,” and played guitar on a latter. Here is the video for “Wasted Days.”

12. On May 11, 2022, Springsteen and Mellencamp performed Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire” together, as well as a bit of Lewis’ “High School Confidential,” at a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

13. Mellencamp’s 2023 album Orpheus Descending included the Springsteen-written “Perfect World.”

14. On Nov. 6, 2023, Springsteen and Mellencamp performed “Wasted Days” together at a Stand Up for Heroes benefit concert at David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center in New York.

15. On March 10, 2024, Springsteen made a surprise guest appearance at Mellencamp’s concert at The New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, singing “Pink Houses” with him.


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