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John Mellencamp and Meg Ryan Are Engaged, and 1993 Is Thrilled
The year 1993 is thrilled about this news. John Mellencamp—who, we must never forget, once went by the name John Cougar—is now engaged to Meg Ryan. Much like the union of Neil Young and Daryl Hannah, this pairing is delightful. Ryan confirmed the engagement in an Instagram post on Thursday:
Mellencamp, née Cougar, 67, dated Ryan from around 2011 until 2014, according to USA Today. It seems they drifted apart, to put it mildly, after the split. Mellencamp told Howard Stern they likely wouldn’t reunite because she hated him “to death.”
“I think it’s because I’m a child. I throw fits, I gripe, I complain. I’m moody. Every bad thing that a fella can be, that’s me,” he said.
Mellencamp and Ryan got back together in 2017.
John Mellencamp and Meg Ryan in 2011, when the couple first started dating before breaking up in 2014. They reunited in 2017.
This is a good opportunity to admit something: Mellencamp’s 1983 hit song, “Pink Houses,” has preoccupied me for decades. Is the song a celebration of American culture or an indictment of it? Mellencamp is from Indiana, the heartland, where he still lives (Bloomington, to be exact), so this chorus seems like pure lyrical patriotism:
Oh but ain’t that America, for you and meAin’t that America, we’re something to see babyAin’t that America, home of the free, yeahLittle pink houses for you and me, oh for you and me.
The stanzas, on the other hand, become progressively darker as the song goes. It starts with a kind of charming scene with an aging black couple.
And he looks at her and says:”Hey darling, I can remember when you could stop a clock.”
It moves to a young man who thought he could be president:
But just like everything else, those old crazy dreamsJust kinda came and went.
And finally concludes with:
Well there’s people and more peopleWhat do they know, know, knowGo to work in some high riseAnd vacation down at the Gulf of MexicoOoo yeah.And there’s winners, and there’s losersBut they ain’t no big deal’Cause the simple man baby pays the thrills,The bills and the pills that kill.
It reads like a celebration of the simple man, whom America ultimately chews up.
In 2013, Mellencamp told Rolling Stone the song had been misconstrued over the years because of the chorus. “It’s really an anti-American song,” he said. “The American dream had pretty much proven itself as not working anymore.”
John Mellencamp, then known as John Cougar, in London in 1980.
Getty ImagesErica Echenberg
So it’s an indictment of America. (Mellencamp has also fought to make sure the meaning of this song isn’t co-opted. He’s asked the National Organization for Marriage, which is against LGBTQ marriage, to stop playing “Pink Houses” at its events.) I’ve reached out to Mellencamp on several occasions asking to discuss how he feels about one of his biggest hits being so misinterpreted over the years. I’d love to know how he feels about the song today and whether the confusion around its meaning eats him up. So, John, if you’re reading this, please, email me. I’d love to talk. Also, congratulations on the engagement.