John Mellencamp: Smoking got me the voice I wanted


The singer-songwriter credits cigarettes with giving him a voice like Louis Armstrong.

CBS News

Singer-songwriter John Mellencamp makes a living with his voice, and he's not worried that his habit of chain-smoking cigarettes will wreck his sound. In fact, it's just the opposite, he tells Jane Pauley in an interview for CBS' "Sunday Morning," to be broadcast Sunday, July 2.

It's a homecoming of sorts for Pauley, an Indiana native who visits with Mellencamp at his Indiana home to talk about his music, his other artistic pursuit (painting), and how he's managed his personal life offstage. Indeed, the singer of such hits as "Jack & Diane," "Pink Houses" and "Cherry Bomb" even takes Pauley for a fast ride on his motorcycle.

John Mellencamp with "Sunday Morning" anchor Jane Pauley. CBS News

"You have a voice to protect, don't you? Or is it just getting better and better?" Pauley asks as Mellencamp reached for a smoke.

"Have you ever, have you ever heard my voice honey? It's fantastic," Mellencamp replies. "Are you kidding me? I sound like a black guy singing now!"

Mellencamp tells Pauley that's what he always wanted from his voice: "I wanted to sound like Louis Armstrong. But I didn't. I sounded like a white guy, and now I got it.

"These are my babies, c'mon," he says of cigarettes.

While the singer, now 65, had a heart attack when he was just 42, Mellencamp says he doesn't worry much about his smoking or his health. True or not, he believes it's the combination of smoking and drinking that leads people to an early death, not smoking alone.

"It's probably a wacky idea, but it comforts me," he tells Pauley. 

To watch the music video of John Mellencamp's "Grandview" (featuring Martina McBride), from his new album, "Sad Clowns & Hillbillies," click on the video player below. 

John Mellencamp - Grandview ft. Martina McBride by JohnMellencampVEVO on YouTube

The Emmy Award-winning "CBS Sunday Morning," hosted by Pauley, is broadcast on CBS Sundays beginning at 9:00 a.m. ET. Executive producer is Rand Morrison.

Follow the program on Twitter (@CBSSunday), Facebook, Instagram (#CBSSundayMorning) and at "Sunday Morning" also streams on CBSN beginning at 9:30 a.m. ET, and is available on, CBS All Access, and On Demand. You can also listen to "Sunday Morning" audio podcasts at


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