John Mellencamp Says Racist Comment Led to Split With Columbia Records
John Mellencamp has revealed for the first time that he split with Columbia Records in 2001 after the label's former president made a racist remark.
Mellencamp had just issued the single "Peaceful World," a duet with India.Arie found on 2001's Cuttin' Heads. That album, which also included a collaboration with rapper Chuck D on the title track, followed Mellencamp's earlier hit version of Van Morrison's "Wild Night" with Meshell Ndegeocello.
"My manager went in and was talking to the record company, and the president of the record company – who I won't mention his name, but you could probably figure it out – said, 'I don't know why Mellencamp insists on having these [n-----s] singing with him," Mellencamp said. "It makes it impossible to get him [on radio]."
Mellencamp also claims Columbia's former senior vice president of marketing and media, Larry Jenkins, lost his job after objecting to that kind of language. "And don't forget," Mellencamp adds, "all of Columbia was making their money off of rap at the time and hip-hop. And here was this guy using that word. ... My next call was to [lawyer] Allen Grubman, and I just said, 'Get me off this label – now.'"
The singer finished out his contract by releasing Trouble No More, a 2003 collection of old blues and folk songs. Columbia was led at that time by former president Don Ienner, who is no stranger to controversy. The late George Michael sued in an attempt to split with Columbia claiming Ienner called him a "f-----." Ienner denied the claim. A spokesman for the label had no comment on Mellencamp's allegation when contacted by Yahoo News. Ienner also didn't respond.
Ironically, "Cuttin' Heads" included a verse in which Chuck D asked others not to "call me n-----, 'cause you know I don't like it like that." Mellencamp's latest album, titled Sad Clowns and Hillbillies, is due on April 28 via Republic Records.
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