John Mellencamp to be honored with a Steinbeck Award

By: Abigail Richards

The Steinbeck Awards, named after famed author John Steinbeck who wrote classics like “The Grapes of Wrath,” have not been given out since 2003. However, this recently changed when singer John Mellencamp was announced as the 2012 recipient of the award.

Thomas Steinbeck, son of the late John Steinbeck, wrote in a press release why Mellencamp will be honored with the first award in close to a decade.

“My father always carried a deep and profound respect for songwriters and musicians. He felt they were the voice of the people and had the unique opportunity to reach the very souls of the people. Like Woody Guthrie, Bruce Springsteen, and a handful of others, John Mellencamp has done just that. He has spent his life serving as a voice for the people,” Steinbeck said. “John’s 40-year career makes one marvel. As an artist, John Mellencamp has been a superb singer-songwriter-storyteller, as an exemplary activist, and as a creator and longtime champion of Farm Aid, he has maintained the true spirit of John Steinbeck’s compassion for the worker. Without question, John Mellencamp has earned the John Steinbeck Award, and it will be my great pleasure to present it to him.”

The Steinbeck Award official website declares the first of these recognition awards was given to Bruce Springsteen in 1996. They are given to writers, artists, thinkers and activists whose work “captures the spirit of Steinbeck’s empathy, commitment to democratic values, and belief in the dignity of people who by circumstance are pushed to the fringes.”

Other recipients of the Steinbeck award include John Sayles, Arthur Miller, Jackson Brown, Studs Terkel, Joan Baez, Sean Penn, Garrison Keillor, Dolores Huerta and Michael Moore.

Mellencamp was beyond thrilled to be put in the same category as these fine men and women who represent the spirit of America.

“John Steinbeck’s remarkable ability to give voice to the common man and to people on society’s margins, to describe their plight and aspirations, continues to inspire us more than a century after his birth,” Mellencamp said in a press release. “I’m very honored to be the recipient of an award given in his name.”

The singer will be honored with his award during a ceremony on July 30 at the historic California Theater in San Jose. Thomas Steinbeck will be handing out the award.