Bruce Springsteen Salutes John Mellencamp at American Music Honors Event; Jackson Browne, Mavis Staples, Dion Also Honored

The Bruce Springsteen Archives & Center for American Music hosted the second annual installment of its American Music Honors event on Wednesday, April 24, with the star-studded event saluting John Mellencamp, Jackson Browne, Mavis Staples, and Dion DiMucci.

Videos by American Songwriter

The ceremony took place in West Long Branch, New Jersey, at Monmouth University’s Pollak Theater.

According to a pre-event press statement from Springsteen Archives executive director Robert Santelli, the four honorees are “musically, culturally, and politically important artists … [who] have contributed mightily to the American music canon and have demonstrated how the power of song can act as an agent for positive change in our country.”

Springsteen Honored Mellencamp

Bruce Springsteen himself was on hand to celebrate his pal Mellencamp. Fan-shot video capturing highlights of the event, including Springsteen’s speech honoring Mellencamp, has been posted on YouTube.

“My great friend and one of my greatest friends certainly in music, John Mellencamp, has been writing classic songs about America for more than 40 years,” the Boss said in his speech. “In this time, his eye for the details of working-class life in the belly of the country has been flawless and unforgiving.”

He continued, “From ‘Small Town,’ ‘Pink Houses,’ ‘Rain on the Scarecrow,’ ‘Jack and Diane,’ to ‘The Eyes of Portland,’ he’s captured and remained true to an unflinching vision of a country at war with itself, a country caught between its hard realities and better angels.”

According to Variety, during Mellencamp’s acceptance speech, he enthusiastically praised Springsteen.

“I know you all love him,” he said of the Boss. “He put down a big footprint—him and [Bob] Dylan—for me. And [Woody] Guthrie. And Bruce just kind of put it down and said, ‘There it is, punk. Fill my footprint.’ And that was inspiration for me, ’cause I could hear him, and I could hear Bob, and I could go, ‘God, these guys… maybe me, too.’”

After his speech, Mellencamp played an acoustic version of his classic tune “Jack and Diane.” Then Springsteen sang a rendition of “Small Town,” with the evening’s house band, Steven Van Zandt’s Disciples of Soul. Mellencamp eventually joined the performance as well.

Staples Was Honored by Darlene Love

According to Salon, the festivities kicked off with Darlene Love. The girl-group greats honored civil-rights activist Staples. The gospel-soul legend came to fame with her family group The Staple Singers.

“I’m just a girl from Chicago who started singing with her father when I was nine years old, and folks didn’t believe that the voice was coming from this skinny little knock-kneed girl,” Staples to the audience. “To go from that time to singing with my father, [and] my siblings on our living room floor to being here and receiving this honor, is just amazing.”

After her speech, the 84-year-old Staples belted out a version of The Staple Singers’ 1973 hit “If You’re Ready (Come Go with Me).”

Dion Was Saluted by Van Zandt

Up next was doo-wop and rock ‘n’ roll pioneer DiMucci, who was introduced by Van Zandt. According to Variety, the 84-year-old Dion, who is eight days younger than Staples, flirtatiously joked, “Mavis, if you ever want to go out with a younger guy, the kid is here.”

He followed his speech with performances of “King of the New York Streets” and his classic “The Wanderer.”

Browne Was Celebrated by Springsteen Manager Jon Landau

The next honoree was Browne, who was saluted by longtime Springsteen manager Jon Landau. Landau produced the singer/songwriter’s 1976 album The Pretender. Variety reported that during his speech, Browne paid tribute to his longtime collaborator David Lindley, who died in 2023. He also saluted Tom Campbell who produced hundreds of charitable benefit shows. One of the most memorable is the historic 1979 No Nukes concerts at Madison Square Garden.

After his speech, Browne performed his classics “Running on Empty” and “Take It Easy.” The latter of which he co-wrote with late Eagles member Glenn Frey.

About the Evening’s Other Performances

Springsteen and Van Zandt hit the stage with the Disciples of Soul to perform Bruce’s “Glory Days” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.”

The finale featured all of the performers and presenters singing a rousing version of The Carter Family’s “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”

TV news anchor Brian Williams emceed the event. Among the notable people in attendance were Springsteen’s wife and E Street bandmate Patti Scialfa. His son Sam, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, and singer/songwriters Steve Forbert, John Eddie, and Warren Zanes were also there.

Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Bob Woodruff Foundation

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