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Mellencamp's 'Jena' | The Nation

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Peter Rothberg

Peter Rothberg

Opposing war, racism, sexism, climate change, economic injustice and high-stakes testing.

Mellencamp's 'Jena'

To steal a line from an Indiana blogger, with James Brown dead, John Mellencamp may now be the hardest working man in show business. The early fall saw him headlining Farm Aid, opening the NFL season, playing small benefits, rehearsing for a major tour opening on October 26 and recording a new album with T Bone Burnett.

Featured on the still un-titled new album is a powerful song called "Jena." Mellencamp, always one to keep up on the news, wrote the tune in August after he heard about the travesty of justice involving six African-American teenagers in a small Louisiana town. Thanks to Howie Klein of the DownWithTyranny blog for transcribing the lyrics below.

An all white jury hides the executioner's face
Is this how we are, me and you?
Everyone needs to know their place
And here we thought this blackbird was hidden in the flue

Oh oh oh Jena
Oh oh oh Jena
Oh oh oh Jena
Take your nooses down

So what becomes of boys that cannot think straight
Particularly those with paper bag skin
Yes sir no sir wipe that smile off your face
We've got our rules here and you've got to fit in

Oh oh oh Jena
Oh oh oh Jena
Oh oh oh Jena
Take your nooses down

Hey some way sanity will prevail
But no one knows when that day will come
A shot in the dark, well it might find its way
To the hearts of those who hold the keys to kingdom come

Oh oh oh Jena
Oh oh oh Jena
Oh oh oh Jena
Take your nooses down

Oh oh oh Jena
Oh oh oh Jena
Oh oh oh Jena
Take your nooses down

The populist singer wants to get the song out to the public before the album's release so he created an evocative accompanying video and is just starting to release it over the internet. It's not even yet on YouTube but you can click below to become one of the very first people anywhere to watch it. (The video takes a few seconds to load so be patient.)

Mellencamp Video

After you watch it, click here to see how you can help the Jena Six.

And, as a bonus, here's a classic Mellencamp video always worth watching!

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