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No, John Mellencamp Did Not Promote Biden Onstage

U.S.No, John Mellencamp Did Not Promote Biden Onstage

The song opened on cue with a “little ditty about Jack and Diane,” but then the music abruptly stopped. John Mellencamp had barely finished the second verse of his smash hit when an exchange with a heckler had clearly gotten on his nerves.

“You know what?” he told concertgoers last month in Toledo, Ohio. “Show’s over.”

Videos capturing the moment when the singer walked off the stage have ricocheted for weeks online. A cascade of right-wing chatter on social media has fueled the perception that Mr. Mellencamp brought it on himself by promoting President Biden during the show.

But that was not the case.

An audio recording provided to The New York Times by Mr. Mellencamp’s representatives, and an interview with a reporter who covered the March 17 concert for The Blade in Toledo, show that the exchange started when a heckler grew frustrated with the singer’s long-winded reminiscences about his late grandmother. Representatives for Mr. Mellencamp, who returned to the stage and resumed the concert that night several minutes after walking out, declined further comment.

Mr. Mellencamp is an unabashed liberal who has previously barred several Republican presidential candidates from using his songs at political events and has assailed Congress for its response to gun violence. But the exchange with the heckler in Toledo did not stem from any political commentary that happened onstage.

“The word Biden or election never escaped John Mellencamp’s mouth that night,” Jason Webber, who covers music for The Blade, said in an interview.

Mr. Mellencamp, 72, a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, had been sharing an anecdote about how his grandmother, who had lived until the age of 100, had once cautioned him that “you’re not going to get into heaven if you don’t stop this cussing and smoking all the time.”

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