John Mellencamp posts reworked version of 1964 Bob Dylan civil rights-themed protest song

John Mellencamp has premiered another topical new recording at his official website and YouTube channel, a reworked cover of the 1964 Bob Dylan protest anthem “Only a Pawn in Their Game,” which focused on the 1963 murder of civil-rights activist Medgar Evers.

Mellencamp’s version of the song, titled “A Pawn in the White Man’s Game,” features new lyrics that reflect the current turbulent racial conflicts in the U.S. that have followed in the wake of the recent death of George Floyd while in custody of Minneapolis police officers. The track features a companion lyric video with split-screen footage of protesters and police clashing violently in 2020 and 1968, as well as some profane lyrics.

The video features a warning that it may be “inappropriate for some viewers.”

The stripped-down song features Mellencamp singing gruffly while accompanied by a strummed acoustic guitar.

The first verse includes the lyric, “In our white land, they’re not part of the plan/ They’re under the thumbs, beneath our white guns/ That’ll put ’em in their grave, if they don’t behave/ And stop their demands, of a fair shot/ Be happy for what you’ve got, because they’re only a pawn in the white man’s game.”

Along with the video, Mellencamp has included a note that reads, “For my entire life I have seen the mistreatment of minorities in our country. We have gone too far with the shameful killing and genocide…from the Native Americans to where we find ourselves today. In my own way I have tried to address these issues in song.”

Last week, Mellencamp premiered a new cover of “Welcome to Struggleville,” a 1994 song by indie-rock band Vigilantes of Love that John says he thought “was fitting for the times.”

By Matt Friedlander
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