Archive for the ‘Farm Aid’ Category
John Mellencamp, 64, was honored for his songwriting and his exceptional contributions to music by the organization that represents composers, authors and publishers
by: Rachel McGrath
The 64-year-old began his career as John Cougar, then became John Cougar Mellencamp, adding his real last name to his stage name, and finally just John Mellencamp. His music illuminates the human condition’: Heartland rocker John Mellencamp is honored for his songwriting and creative influence. He’s known for his ‘heartland rock’ and his string of hits over the years also includes R.O.C.K. In The USA, Small Town and Ain’t That America. His most recent album Plain Spoken was released in the fall of 2014.
ASCAP president Paul Williams, pictured left with Mellencamp and TV personality Tavis Smiley, said the rocker had ‘captured the American experience in his songs’
The ASCAP Founders Award goes to pioneering ASCAP songwriters who have made exceptional contributions to music by inspiring and influencing their fellow music creators.
‘For the last four decades, John Mellencamp has captured the American experience in his songs, ASCAP president Paul Williams told Variety last month.
‘His infectious melodies and compassionate lyrics, wrapped in workingman’s rock, crystallize life’s joys and struggles and illuminate the human condition,’ Williams added.
All of America watched as the Flood of ’93 left thousands of Midwest families homeless. Heavy rains caused the Mississippi and Missouri rivers to rise up and overflow their banks, swallowing entire towns along the way. Eight million acres of crops were destroyed and 20 million acres were damaged. With their backs already against the wall due to heavy debt and low farm prices, Midwest family farmers had few resources left to deal with the effects of the flooding.
In response to the flood, Farm Aid created the Family Farm Disaster Fund to support organizations that worked directly with farm families stricken by the flood. When farmers needed help to avoid foreclosure due to losses from the flood, Farm Aid-funded groups were there to help them save their farms.
The 1993 concert included performances by Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, the Highwaymen, Sawyer Brown, Bruce Hornsby, Martina McBride, the Kentucky HeadHunters, Marty Stuart, Dwight Yoakam, Ringo Starr, Waylon Jennings, Bryan Adams, Paul Simon, Travis Tritt, Ricky Van Shelton and many others.
Before the close of the last meeting of the Farm Aid Board of Directors, @willienelsonofficial made a motion to suggest that Willamina (pictured here with Willie) be named the official Farm Aid mascot. According to the minutes of the board meeting, Mr. Nelson declared, “She’s not just an ordinary mule.” The matter will be taken up at the next meeting of the Farm Aid Board of Directors.
“I know so many people that, if they could only go to one show a year, they’d choose Farm Aid”. “And that goes for me too.”
— Jack Johnson
Once again, Jack Johnson returned to the Farm Aid fundraiser concert stage in 2015, in support of the Family Farmers. He started out his set with a song he had just written, about everybody’s dream — smoking pot with Willie Nelson on his bus.
Willie got me stoned and took all my money
I was 50 dollars up and then my mind went funny
It didn’t really help that I didn’t know the rules of the game
And it probably didn’t help that I couldn’t remember my name
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John Mellencamp, Lana Nelson, Willie Nelson
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photo: Paul Natkin
by: David Ritz
It all began with a few words from Bob Dylan onstage at the Live Aid concert in July 1985, asking: Couldn’t some of the money raised go to help American farmers?
“The question hit me like a ton of bricks,” remembers Willie Nelson, who was on the road that day, watching the event on his tour-bus TV. He immediately began looking into the state of American agriculture. This was a time when family farmers were suffering mightily. Thousands were being forced off their land and driven into bankruptcy.
Enter Nelson, who, a few days after Dylan’s remarks, met with his friend Jim Thompson, the then governor of Illinois, at the St. Louis Fair. With Thompson’s help — and the collaboration of John Mellencamp and Neil Young — the first Farm Aid concert took place that same summer, on Sept. 22 at the University of Illinois’ Memorial Stadium in Champaign. More than $7 million was raised. Thirty years later, Farm Aid, an annual and much beloved American institution, has grown that number to $48 million.
Today, the 82-year-old Nelson remains fervently committed to the nonprofit that he helped to create.
What are your earliest memories of giving back?
Church. Ours was the United Methodist in the little town of Abbott, Texas, where I grew up. We had a collection box, and even though we were struggling financially, I knew there were folks with far greater struggles. As part of a loving community, I was taught the moral responsibility of helping those in need.
Of all the causes you might have championed, why Farm Aid?
Farming was my first job. I picked cotton. I pulled corn. I knew firsthand what it meant to farm. I knew damn well how tough it was. In high school, I was a proud member of Future Farmers of America. My farm roots are deep-seated in the soil of my personal story.
In Farm Aid’s three decades, what is your most memorable moment?
It might have been that first one, because back then there was still uncertainty. Who knew if the idea would work? So it was a real thrill when the show sold out and 80,000 fans showed up. Beyond Dylan, Young and Mellencamp, we had B.B. King, Waylon Jennings, Bonnie Raitt, Kris Kristofferson, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash and a slew of others. Everyone was eager to pitch in.
Through Farm Aid’s history, what is your proudest accomplishment?
The fact that we’ve raised the public consciousness. There’s awareness today about the challenges of farming and the benefits of buying products on a local level — especially organic food — that was missing 30 years ago. Farmers’ markets have sprouted up. People realize the downside of shipping in food from hundreds of miles away — wasting money on costly fuel — when wholesome food can be grown and bought within a local area.
Do you believe the plight of the farmer has significantly improved?
There’s lot of work still to be done, but yes, I do believe real progress has been made. The proliferation of social media, for example, has been a good thing. All forms of communication help, especially when communication starts at the grass-roots level. Corporate-owned newspapers and magazines can be biased, but nowadays folks are looking beyond that; they’re hungry for the truth. Consumers are educating themselves about where and how food is grown.
In addition to Farm Aid, for years you have been involved in the fight to legalize marijuana and recognize the benefits of hemp products. Are you still passionate about that cause?
More passionate than ever. I was recently encouraged to read about parents traveling to Colorado and Oregon where they could legally obtain marijuana so that, under a doctor’s care, their children’s seizures could be effectively treated. When it comes to pot, the dark ages may finally be behind us. It has been 25 years since I campaigned for Gatewood Galbrath, a Lexington, Ky., lawyer running for governor with a let’s-legalize-pot policy. We lost that battle, but now it looks like we’re winning the war. The decriminalization of marijuana is a growing and unstoppable movement. The good uses of hemp — for agriculture, clothing or the relief of serious pain — are well documented and irrefutable. Old prejudices die hard, but the anti-pot bias of a misinformed establishment is not long for this world.
Do you think the world of today is a more charitable one than the world you knew as a younger man?
I’d like to think so, but I’m no social scientist. I’m just a picker from Hill County, Texas, who has led a very fortunate life. When I look back on that life, I remember acts of remarkable charity. My grandmother, the woman who raised me, was the most giving woman I’ve ever known. And of course during the different wars, you had many artists donating their services to entertain our troops abroad. But the advent of Farm Aid and many of the causes that followed brought on something new, something I hadn’t seen before.
Artists began banding together around urgent sociopolitical causes. In the past 30 years, that impulse — to address the pressing issues of our times — has strengthened. It goes beyond respecting the folks who grow our food. It even goes beyond the quality of the food itself. It’s about loving Mother Earth. Because we love her, we study her. And that study reveals her desperate state. It demands that we protect her from greedy and lethal exploitation. We need to be proactive about championing the causes that will preserve our natural resources and maintain a high quality of human and animal life. It’s a monumental task, but I have a deep belief in humanity. There are millions of good people committed to do the right thing. It’s just a matter of harnessing our energy, staying positive, remaining organized and fighting the good fight. Man, I’m ready to go!
FarmAid.org offers concert videos, in-depth news on food issues and a donation link.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 24 issue of Billboard.
by Jessica Kurn
As the old adage goes, hindsight is 20/20. So to kick off 2016, we’re taking a look back at 2015 and learning from the year.
From a rocking concert that kicked off our 30th year, to popular efforts to shift policy, to an innovative new website, 2015 was a meaningful year for Farm Aid. Below are a few things that caught our attention.
In 2015, Farm Aid brought on four new staff members! One of those is Jennie Msall, who fields hotline calls from farmers as our Farm Advocate. Some farmers are looking for financial and business counseling, some are transitioning to organic methods, and this past year Jennie received many calls from farmers dealing with natural disasters (like farmers in South Carolina, where record rainfall caused farm losses upwards of $300 million).
Our travel to Illinois for the concert introduced us to some impressive Farmer Heroes. There’s Darius Jones, a charismatic, Chicago, urban farmer. We also met the Kilgus and Schneider families, who operates an innovative and sustainable hydroponic farm in Strawn, IL. And last, but not least, we got to know Andrea Hazzard in Pecatonica, IL, who grows heirloom varieties and ancient grains, and touts the art of seed-saving as one of her farm’s sustainability measures.
This year we thanked our valued partners and grantees for the boots-on-the-ground work that they do across the country. We highlighted many of them in our beautiful online grant quilt, and we’ll be adding squares for our 2015 grantees.
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