On Wednesday, Tulsa's Woody Guthrie Center announced the 5th recipient of the 2018 Woody Guthrie Prize is John Mellencamp. The prize will be awarded August 30, the day before the opening of the special exhibition "MELLENCAMP."
“The Woody Guthrie Center is proud to recognize John Mellencamp for his incredible achievements as he continues the work of Woody Guthrie,” said Deana McCloud, executive director of the Woody Guthrie Center.
“Artists working as activists ensure that Woody’s legacy is alive and well, and this award was established to not only recognize achievement, but to remind us all about the importance of taking a stand on human rights issues.”
You might not immediately make the connection of Woody Guthrie and John Mellencamp, but there is one - it's in the prize and its purpose.
"Artists who best exemplify the spirit and life's work of Woody Guthrie by speaking for the less fortunate," said Deana McCloud, with the Woody Guthrie Center.
John Mellencamp was a founding member of Farm Aid in 1985. He's raised money for the environment, he's been anti-war and an advocate for change in America.
He still paints, and his art reflects what we may have missed in his music, his social activism.
"He's never hesitated to stand up, speak out, sing truth, or take a knee to show solidarity for those in search of hope, equality and freedom," McCloud.
Starting August 31, the MELLENCAMP exhibit will showcase music, art and artifacts that tell the story of the artist's career as a rocker and advocate for American farmers. Some of the items to be displayed include Mellencamp's 1966 silver Honda Scrambler motorcycle and original handwritten lyrics to "Small Town," and "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A."
There will also be performance outfits, musical instruments and several of Mellencamp's original paintings.
Currently in its fourth year, past recipients of the award include Norman Lear (2017), Kris Kristofferson (2016), Mavis Staples (2015) and Pete Seeger (2014).
Meanwhile, Tuesday evening, a member of Oklahoma music royalty performed at the Center. Annie Guthrie, the daughter of Arlo and granddaughter of Woody, performed at the Woody Guthrie Center which is dedicated to her grandfather.
The center is located at 102 East Mathew B. Brady Street.