‘My HIV Child Is Playing with Your Child, and You Don’t Know It’

One mom's essay about hiding her children's HIV status went viral after it was posted on the Scary Mommy blog.

In 1965, Kurt Vonnegut reminded us earthlings that there is only one rule for living on this planet: You’ve got to be kind. In God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Vonnegut wrote: “Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

It’s a rule that bears repeating, especially when stories like Jenn Mosher’s are making the rounds, reminding us all what an un-kind world we live in. Mosher wrote a brutally honest, powerful and thought-provoking essay at Scary Mommy about feeling that she must hide her children’s HIV positive status. The story went viral with 37,700 shares on Facebook and 637,725 likes. “My HIV child is playing with your child, and you don’t know it,” she bluntly wrote before going on to explain that her children have no sign of the disease in their blood, take medication every night and live the happy go-lucky lives of happy go-lucky children. But Mosher is worried that if her children’s HIV status is known, her community, friends, even school will shun her and her children.

When Mosher writes about fears of her children being stigmatized, it’s not the children on the playground she is worried about. Kids don’t know or care about such things, but their parents do. It’s the mothers and fathers who simply don’t understand that HIV isn’t a viral boogeyman lurking on toilet seats or playground swings. (In fact, it never was.) Now, as Mosher writes, HIV is a manageable illness that is not contagious through normal contact:

“Modern medications render the virus powerless. Every four months my child has her blood checked, and every time the results are the same: the sensitive lab tests detect no virus in her bloodstream. She is healthy, happy, and hilarious. I bandage her scraped knees; mop up bloody noses; share food, water, and kisses; and deal with boogies—all with no risk and no worries about contracting HIV.”

Parents who haven’t kept up on advances in HIV (and who has time, what with modern parenting being the all-hands-on-deck enterprise that it is?) may not know or understand that modern medicine has rendered HIV inert and Mosher’s essay addresses that. “Please, fellow mommies, know that HIV is nothing to be afraid of,” she writes and encourages parents with questions to seek answers from their own pediatricians. “Please look online, google it, and talk with your pediatrician. Learn and research so that you know the truth, too. You don’t have to take my word for it,” she wrote.

Still, Mosher has her own fears, but hers are not so much for her children’s physical health, but their mental and social well-being. “Fear that my children will be disinvited from birthday parties,” Mosher explained to Buzzfeed, “uninvited from gymnastics teams, kicked out of private school, and excluded and despised because of misinformation and baseless fear — as some others we know have been.”

Why would a school or a gymnastics team kick out a child with no sign of disease but a specter of a once-scary virus? Why would a parent disinvite a child to a birthday party over something they were born with? The combination of a lack of education and unfounded fear are a deadly cocktail, which can wreak far more damage on a child than an inert virus. But there’s something even more basic at play, too— the fact that many parents have forgotten one of the basic tenets of life on earth: kindness.

One silver lining of Mosher’s story is this: While internet comments are normally the antithesis of kindness, Mosher told Buzzfeed that she found thoughtful moms offering support, advice and even friendship. “They encouraged me, invited us on play dates, and made me realize that our tribe is definitely out there,” she told Buzzfeed. “They made my husband and I want to be braver.”

Essays like Mosher’s are important, because they teach from a place of kindness. They strive to inform, not yell or name call. They make people want to listen and become informed. Her essay reminds us all how far we have come since the days when Ryan White was shunned from his school, forced to eat with disposable utensils, use separate bathrooms, and skip gym class. But the essay also reveals how far we as a society still have to go to learn to live together on this round and wet and crowded planet.

I try to teach my son to be kind and his school reinforces those lessons of inclusiveness. If one of his schoolmates is HIV positive, I hope he learns about the differences that make up this melting pot of a country. I hope he learns acceptance of those differences, whether skin color, weight, ability or boogeymen lurking in their bloodstream. And I hope most of all that he learns to be kind to everyone, no matter how different, while he learns how we are all very much the same.

TIME Television

Dancing With the Stars Watch: Jives and Jams

Adam Taylor—ABC

The 12 remaining ersatz celebrities are still bringing their A-game dance moves

Welcome back to Dancing With the Stars, where this week we will be treated to something called #MyJamMonday, a theme that even host Tom Bergeron can’t say without an eye roll and a half-smirk. On Week 2 of Dancing With the Stars, the contestants’ ranks have been diminished by one Olympian (so long, Lolo Jones!), but the 12 remaining ersatz celebrities are still bringing their A-game dance moves, angling for a shot to bring the Mirror Ball Trophy home to perch on their mantels and make their neighbors jealous.

Here’s what happened this week on Dancing With the Stars:

Randy Couture and Karina Smirnoff: MMA fighter Randy Couture dressed up as a doughboy (in front of an audience of actual enlisted men) to dance a cha-cha to a funky version of either the Rolling Stones’ or Otis Redding’s “Satisfaction.” Len Goodman noted that his footwork was off, but his heart was in the right place. Carrie Ann Inaba wanted something more aggressive and sexier. Karina, who wore an extra few coats of spray tan for the occasion, accepted the criticism with a smile, because she is contractually obligated to do so. 28/40

Janel Parrish and Val Chmerkovskiy: A masked-ball-inspired formal foxtrot to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” is a mouthful of a sentence that could only happen on Dancing With the Stars. Julianne Hough, sporting a weird bird’s-nest-hair-crown thing, noted that while it wasn’t a traditional foxtrot, she loved it. Bruno Tonioli deemed it “almost perfect.” 34/40

Lea Thompson and Artem Chigvintsev: Bruno compared Lea to “Ann Margaret in her prime” after her fast-paced jive to Wilson Pickett’s “Land of 1000 Dances.” Carrie-Ann was so excited by the routine that she fell out of her chair, accidentally kicking Len in his “lower portion.” Julianne called Lea “a hot mama leopard,” which is moderately better than being called a cougar. 35/40

Michael Waltrip and Emma Slater: The NASCAR driver’s favorite song is “Girls in Bikinis” by Lee Brice. For the routine, Waltrip dressed like your embarrassing uncle who insists you do the chicken dance with him at every wedding. Despite his many, many hip rolls, Carrie Ann noted that there wasn’t much samba in the routine, but Len couldn’t help but admire his white pants and party moves. 24/40

Tavis Smiley and Sharna Burgess: The PBS host was too busy with his book tour for Death of a King, which looks to really polish his cha-cha, and it showed. (Has there ever been a DWTS star tired from book tour before?) While Len approved of the song choice, Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Boogie Wonderland,” and Julianne loved his fright wig, it was only Carrie Ann who really liked the routine, saying it felt like his jam. 28/40

Alfonso Ribeiro and Witney Carson: As a shout-out to his Fresh Prince past, Alfonso danced a samba to Will Smith’s “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It,” as you do. The routine earned him a standing ovation from the audience, but the judges felt the need to nitpick, even though it’s only Week 2. That’s what you get for setting the bar so high last week. Aim low, Alfonso! 32/40

Bethany Mota and Derek Hough: The YouTube star twisted her ankle last week, but powered through it thanks to the fact that Taylor Swift herself tweeted that she loved her “Shake It Off” routine from last week. To follow that coup, Derek choreographed a Fosse-esque foxtrot to Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass.” The surprisingly classy routine earned a 9 from Len, who said she should “put it on her blog.” 33/40

Betsey Johnson and Tony Dovolani: For her big comeback, after disappointing first-week scores, the designer opted to do a foxtrot to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” Carrie Ann rose to her feet and declared, “All hail Queen Betsey,” earning herself a spot on the Betsey Johnson Friends and Family list for life. Julianne declared it, “simple, elegant and timeless.” 28/40

Antonio Sabato Jr., and Cheryl Burke: If you want to make a rumba even sexier in two easy steps, dance it with noted hunk Antonio and set it to Miguel’s steamy song “Adorn.” Len told the former Calvin Klein model not to torment himself, but to just come out each week and do a little better, which he pulled off this week. Bruno noted that he has “a very nice butt” and he should use it to his advantage. 31/40

Tommy Chong and Peta Murgatroyd: Tommy Chong added some spicy moves to his salsa routine set to “Higher” by Gloria Estefan, including ripping his shirt open midroutine, and the judges loved it. Julianne dubbed it “f’ing fantastic” because it was fun and fast and funny. Len admired the fact that he was 76 and still working his “assets.” Tommy claims that the rush made him feel younger, like, at least 72 years old. He also promised to save the world next week if everyone votes for him this week. 28/40

Jonathan Bennett and Allison Holker: Jonathan decided to dance a cha-cha to Ed Sheeran’s “Sing.” Carrie Ann didn’t think there was enough cha-cha in it. Len thought it was jerky, with too much “flim flam” and not enough of the dance’s elements. Julianne encouraged them to keep doing what they were doing, because it was working for them. She better judge him kindly, because she may have just outed the Mean Girls star as gay. 30/40

Sadie Robertson and Mark Ballas: While the Duck Dynasty scion may be only 17, she knows her demographic and set her country-jazz routine to Jason Aldean’s “She’s Country.” Carrie Ann was worried that Sadie’s dad would have a problem with the sexiness of the line-dancing-inspired routine. 31/40

The Leaderboard: Lea Thompson and Janel Parrish topped the rankings this week, with Michael Waltrip trailing in the race.

Best Reason to Come Back Tomorrow: Someone gets to go back to their day job. If they have one, that is.

TIME celebrity

Watch Paul McCartney Rap About Vegetarians

A promo for Meat-Free Mondays

Sir Paul McCartney is not only one of the most famous musicians in the world, but he is also one of the most famous vegetarians in the world. In a new video, McCartney melds those two passions together into a jingle to promote Meat-Free Mondays.

The Meat-Free Monday movement stems from the idea that cutting out animal products from the human diet — even just getting meat consumption down to one day a week — can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In this clip released ahead of the UN climate summit on Tuesday, McCartney calls on politicians and the public to commit to a weekly meat-free day to raise awareness of the environmental impacts of eating meat.

At the end of the call to action, McCartney starts rapping the web address for the organization. It’s hard to tell whether the former Beatle intended to burst into song, or whether he’s just so musically inclined that he couldn’t help it. One thing is for sure, though, you won’t forget that web address anytime soon.

TIME Comedy

Rare Woody Allen Stand-Up Comedy From the 1960s to Be Released

Woody Allen
US writer, actor and film director Woody Allen. Evening Standard/Getty Images

The director knew how to get the laughs

Woody Allen may now be best known as a serious director, but in the early ’60s, he was the Jim Gaffigan of his time. Or maybe the Larry David. Whoever is his modern-day analog, back in the day — before Annie Hall or Blue Jasmine, —Allen was a stand-up comic.

Allen’s routines were not rapid-fire bits lobbed at the audience; instead, he told long-form jokes that were more akin to short stories, a form he perfected in his collections Without Feathers and Getting Even. He related complex, clever tales with a perpetually straight face and his tongue firmly in his cheek. There were punchlines, but they were peppered throughout the stories, and Allen barely paused for the audience to catch their breath from laughing before he volleyed another.

While Allen has been off the comedy circuit since his directorial career took off with his 1969 film Take the Money and Run, his routines were recorded and released as Woody Allen: The Stand Up Years, comprised of his three earlier stand-up comedy albums. Recorded at three locations – Mr. Kelly’s in Chicago in March 1964; The Shadows, Washington D.C., April 1965; and Eugene’s, San Francisco, August 1968 — the album captures Allen’s best routines, including the infamous bit “The Moose.”

On November 25, Razor & Tie is set to release a two-disc set of Woody Allen’s The Stand Up Years, including exclusive material from the original vinyl recordings not available on any previous reissues. In addition, the set will include 25-minutes of audio excerpts from Woody Allen: A Documentary. and liner notes by Robert B. Weide, who produced and directed Woody Allen: A Documentary as well as Curb Your Enthusiasm (perhaps Larry David is the correct choice after all).

The news of the re-release comes on the heels of speculation that Allen may return to stand-up. Last year, he told New York Times reporter Dave Itzkoff that he has been “toying with the idea” of developing new standup material. Allen was inspired by watching 86-year old comedian Mort Sahl perform: “Watching him, I had the same feeling now, in 2013, as I had when I saw him in 1950-something. Of, ‘Hey, I’d like to get back onstage and do standup again.'”

That said, those comments surfaced last year, and Allen was already concerned about the effort, telling Itzkoff, “Just getting together an hour of stuff to talk about would be a lot of work.” Perhaps a new generation of fans will just have to make due with memorizing his old routines, which — luckily — still hold up.

TIME Music

Listen to Sophie and the Bom Boms’ “Badman”: Premiere

Myles Pettengill

"It's an anti-douchebaggery anthem," explains Sophie Stern

Sophie Stern has written for the likes of Britney Spears and Ke$ha — she even appeared with Kendrick Lamar on a Cisco & Schwayze song back in 2011 — but the singer is ready to move from behind-the-scenes to the front of the stage. With her new outfit Sophie and the Bom Boms, that seems likely to happen. The band’s new EP, The Shmixtape, comes out Sept. 22nd on Columbia Records, and it’s filled with radio-friendly pop songs that will keep the summer vibe alive through the winter months.

TIME has an exclusive first listen of “Badman,” a sing-along track perfect for blasting out the windows of your bedroom while you get ready to wash that man right out of your hair. “I wrote these songs as if I was talking with my best girlfriends,” said Stern.”There’s a man’s definition of manliness and there’s a woman’s definition of manliness. This is the latter. It’s an anti-douchebaggery anthem.”

Who doesn’t want to shake their Bom Boms along with that?

TIME viral

Watch a Cat Ruin a Game of Mini Golf for Everyone

Seriously. What is it even doing there?

In case you were considering taking your cat for a few holes of mini golf this weekend: Don’t.

In this video making the rounds, a cat actively works to ruin the game for some people just trying to have a good time.

It’s all the proof you need that even if you name your cat Bagger Vance, you still shouldn’t take him to the local putting green. While cats may love the sound of birdies and bogeys, as it turns out, our feline friends struggle to master their golf swing, occasionally mistake the sand trap for a litter box, or use a nine-iron when a wood club is called for. They are also really bad sports. If they can’t play the back nine, no one can.

TIME Music

Iggy Azalea Has J. Lo’s Back in Twerk-Filled ‘Booty’ Video

Gauntlet is thrown, Nicki Minaj

Have you heard? It’s the year of the rear. Yep — after Miley Cyrus delivered her twerk-filled performance with Robin Thicke at last year’s MTV Video Music Awards, the booty-shaking bar was set, and accordingly, 2014 has seen rump-filled videos and performances from everyone from Lily Allen to Amber Rose to Helen Mirren to even Billy Ray Cyrus. Hey, even Taylor Swift got in on the action in her “Shake It Off” video.

Then came Nicki Minaj’s racy “Anaconda” vid, filled with derrieres from here to there with Drake in between. The barely SFW video zipped across the internet, setting a Vevo record for the most views in 24 hours as fans (and adolescent boys) rushed to watch the provocative jungle-twerk clip.

While “Anaconda” may have established Minaj as the queen of the twerking scene, it was a transient victory. Now, Jennifer Lopez has entered the ring to reclaim the title. J. Lo just released the aptly-named track “Booty” featuring Hot 100 It Girl Iggy Azalea. The video lives up to its title, featuring Lopez and Azalea clad in black and white swimsuits and provocatively shaking what their mamas gave them, dripping with oil. Your move, Destiny’s Child.

TIME Science

Could Bacon Stop Nosebleeds?

Doctors have been recognized for using cured pork to stop a 4-year-old's uncontrollable nosebleed

The 2014 Ig Nobel Prize trophy is hoisted high during a performance at the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass., Sept. 18, 2014. Charles Krupa / AP

Michigan doctors who used cured pork to stop a nosebleed won a 2014 Ig Nobel prize, awarded by the Annals of Improbable Research magazine at Harvard University for especially imaginative scientific achievements.

Dr. Sonal Saraiya and her team at the Detroit Medical Center decided to try the folk remedy as a “last resort” after failed attempts to stop an uncontrollable nosebleed in a 4-year-old who suffers from Glanzmann thrombasthenia, a rare condition in which blood does not properly clot. They stuffed strips of cured pork into the child’s nostrils twice, and the hemorrhaging ceased.

Why did it work? “There are some clotting factors in the pork,” she said, the Associated Press reports, “and the high level of salt will pull in a lot of fluid from the nose.”

The awards also recognized researchers who explored whether owning a cat is bad for your mental health (it might be), Japanese scientists who studied whether banana peels are actually slippery (they’re not), and Norwegian biologists who set out to discover if people dressed like polar bears could scare reindeers (they can).

TIME Music

Sheila E Reflects on Her ‘Glamorous Life': ‘It’s Hard to Be That Popular’

2014 NAMM Show - Day 2
Sheila E. attends the 2014 National Association of Music Merchants show at the Anaheim Convention Center on January 24, 2014 in Anaheim, Ca. Jesse Grant—Getty Images

The Grammy-nominated singer and drummer opens up about her tough past, relationship with Prince

Sheila E, the legendary singer, drummer and percussionist, has lived on stage since she was a teenager — playing music first with her family and then on tours with Marvin Gaye, Lionel Richie and her notorious collaborations with Prince.

Now, after a lifetime in the spotlight, Sheila has written an autobiography, The Beat of My Own Drum, which casts a light into the areas of her life lived off-stage. TIME talked to the legendary drummer about her new book, her work as a musician and bringing the F-U-N-K to Prince songs.

TIME: You’ve spent so much of your life in the spotlight. Have you ever figured out how many years it’s been that you’ve been in the public eye?

Sheila E: The first time I played was with my dad at [age] 5. That was my first experience being on stage. And then I was playing a little bit when I was 14. But during that whole time in the Bay Area, we had so many different groups that we were inspired by, like Carlos Santana and Grateful Dead, Tower Power, Sly and the Family Stone. My dad played Latin jazz music and still does, but that time was the Motown era, so my brothers and I would emulate all the different bands, from the Temptations to the Supremes, Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder, James Brown — it didn’t matter. We were always performing, going to our family’s house, my cousin’s house, my uncle’s house. But up until I was 15, I didn’t know that I was going to be a musician, because my focus in life was sports. I was an athlete, my mom’s an athlete, and I wanted to train to be in the Olympics and I wanted to win a gold medal. I feel that I’ve been transparent for so many years now that actually writing it down and letting other people who I haven’t been able to reach, letting them read this — I’ve been telling my story for a while, so it’s OK. I want to be transparent.

I read an interview where you mentioned how many inaccuracies were in your Wikipedia entry. Is this book sort of a way to fix that?

Yes — that would be great. We keep going in and fixing it, and they keep changing it.

What’s the one thing that keeps changing?

One thing is they keep saying that I learned how to play tuba.

You don’t know how to play tuba?


Maybe you should just learn to play a tuba.

Exactly. And then the year that I was born was wrong. It was two years off. And this lady argued with my manager one time. She says, ‘You know that Wikipedia says this was the year that she was born.’ And my manager says, ‘No, it wasn’t. I’m telling you, it’s my artist.’ And she’s like, ‘No, it’s not. Wikipedia is right.’ She’s like, ‘I’m sitting here with my artist. I know how old she is.’

One of the things Wikipedia says is that you met Carlos Santana when you were 18.

I met him before then, because my dad and my uncle played in the band, and we loved Carlos Santana growing up. That was some music that we had never heard before. Bringing percussion with some rock and roll melodies, a little bit of flavor of Latin in. Yeah, I met him when I was younger and then, later on, I fell in love with him.

What was that like for your dad? Was he like, ‘You can’t date my daughter!’?

It’s really weird, because it never came up when I was dating him. We really didn’t tell anybody. Not that I was too young or anything like that, or it was weird. He was coming to my soccer games, he was coming to the house hanging out. But he’d always pick me up or I’d meet him somewhere and we’d hang out on the other side in San Francisco, as opposed to Oakland all the time. My father never said anything to me. I don’t know if maybe he didn’t want to say anything, or it’s not like Carlos and I really hung out with the family and said, ‘Hey, we’re riding together now.’ He was on tour and I was touring, so it was almost like a relationship that was kind of in the Bay Area, but not. And my mom, honestly — I know this is crazy, but I don’t know if she even knew.

Your book talks about how Prince was already a fan of your music before you started working with him.

Yeah, before he was famous. He came to the Bay Area to do his first record, because he was influenced by Bay Area music and wanted to record in that studio where Sly and Carlos had recorded. So my dad was in Santana at the time, and they were at the studio, and they were talking about this young kid who was next door recording and producing and playing all the instruments by himself. They were like, ‘This kid is amazing.’ And I said, ‘Oh, I want to meet him.’ The following year Prince’s record came out, so he came back to the Bay Area and San Francisco to perform. And I went backstage to meet him and as I went to introduce myself, I put my hand out, and he saw me in the mirror and he turned around, and he said, ‘I already know who you are.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, okay.’ He goes, ‘I’ve been following your career for a long time.’ Then he asked me how much money I was making, and said, ‘Okay, I can’t afford you.’

A lot of articles have cast Prince as a mentor for you. Do you agree with that? Because it sounds like you influenced him as much as he influenced you.

Yeah, he’s not as much a mentor. I think we influenced each other. I influenced him the same way he influenced me. When he came back to the Bay Area, I introduced him to my family, and he got to see me play with my family, with my dad, and play Latin jazz music, and he’d never heard it before. He was like, ‘This is just crazy. This is amazing.’ He loved it. We mentored each other, if you want to look at it that way. That’s the good thing about Prince: you can see how he was influenced by the people around him. I can hear and see it, because I got to live the influence that I had on him as well as the influence he had on me — just being around each other, being able to record all the time and play, and do things that he had never done using live percussion instruments and recording all the time.

One of the things that comes through in your book is how spiritual you are. How did that work, being in the music industry in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s?

It didn’t. I knew that there was a God growing, but it was different later on, when I realized I wanted to be a better person and believing in God was not enough. I really needed to, in a sense, give my heart to the Lord.

There’s a story that you refused to sing “Erotic City” because there’s so much profanity in the song. Is that true?

Yeah, he said the “f word,” he was reading the lyric, and I said ‘I’m not singing that.’ He said, ‘Why not?’ I said, ‘Because I’m not going to say that word.’ I said funk, f-u-n-k, and he said the other word.

And then the story lives on.

Yeah and they keep telling me, ‘You said…’ You can manipulate things but I did not say that word.

Prince has so many songs that were really raunchy — songs like “Darling Nikki,” that spawned a whole national movement spear-headed by Tipper Gore. What are your memories of that time or that song?

I loved it. Are you kidding? Back then?

Even though it was raunchy?

Yeah, I mean, I didn’t know any better. That was the ‘80s. We were having a blast, I’m young. It’s like I walked around: ‘Hey, I’m naked. Look at me.’ Playing, just doing, having a blast. I had so much fun. And I loved the show that he put together. We all loved those songs. That thing was brilliant, then. And some of the songs are still great — just change the lyrics a little bit. I do “Erotic City” in my show. But I change the lyric.

Around the time that “The Belle of St. Mark” and “Glamorous Life” came out, there seemed to be a real push for you to be a pop star and less of a musician. Did you feel that sort of tug-of-war?

That was challenging for me, yeah. I signed as an R&B artist, and when “Glamorous Life” crossed over to pop, it became, ‘Yeah, she was a pop star, not an R&B artist.’ A pop star, that changed it. Then I started changing my show, because then it was more about me singing and less playing, and that’s why by my third record I said I don’t want to do this anymore. It wasn’t true to who I am. Not that I didn’t want to be a pop star or pop music was bad, it was just I wasn’t playing as much and that was the foundation of who I was was a musician. I played percussion and played drums. And the more that I sang and the more I didn’t play, I felt an emptiness and I realized that it just didn’t feel right. So I just walked away from it.

There’s a long tradition of singing drummers, but that didn’t appeal to you to try and do both?

I did do both. I incorporated as much playing as I could, but it was more about singing. By the third record, I need to figure out really what I want to do. I was so famous when “Glamorous Life” came out, and I mean, I couldn’t go into the store, I couldn’t do anything. And that’s a hard place, to be to be that popular. It’s a scary place to be, and it can swallow you up. I could see what these young artists have to go through nowadays. It happened to me, and I know it’s crazy. So I felt that I needed to change some things. So I went back, I started another band. I started a band called the E Train and I went back to playing some more Latin jazz, Brazilian, a little bit of everything with a smaller group, just so I could play again and I felt so good.

In your book you write very frankly about the abuse that you suffered. Was it liberating to write about it?

I’ve been sharing my testimony for a long time, since my 30s. It’s not always easy, but it’s great to talk about, because I realized not only was it healing for me, I was also helping other people. So then when I started to write this, well, the first time I wrote that first chapter about the abuse, I was in my 30s. I wrote for two hours, and I just broke down, like someone had stabbed me in the stomach. I hurt so bad, and I cried for three days. I couldn’t even get off the floor. I felt sick and disgusted. And I almost felt like I wanted to die — it was that intense. But I realized that after getting that out, after holding it in for so long, that the process of the healing began. I started talking about it and I started sharing. And then I realized that this baggage that I had carried for so long — baggage of guilt, baggage of shame, feeling dirty and all of these things that are not pure and clean and of God — and I wanted to let it go. I was like, ‘God, I’m giving this all to you. I don’t want it anymore.’ And really, I started feeling lighter and happier, and not angry as much, and getting better and better the more that I did it.

The experience has also led you to do a lot of philanthropy and a lot of charitable work.

Yeah, my brother introduced me to his friend and she said, ‘Hey, we’ve been through the same thing.’ I started selling my instruments on stage, and I was running out of gear, so I was like, I got to start doing this the right way. So we thought about starting a 501(c)(3). And we started Elevate Hope Foundation, and we started helping other kids. We thought, music has gotten us through this. Music and arts have healed us. They’ve become our outlet to express ourselves, and gave us courage and healing and hope. So we we went to foster care facilities since they’re the least likely to be helped — we started there. And now we’re opening up to the public schools, because all the music and arts have been taken out of the schools.

Going back to Prince for a minute, your relationship with him seems like a double-edged sword. Obviously working with him helped bring you to fame, but at the same time, you’re put up with people like me asking about your relationship. Is that how it feels? I’ve read interviews where you’ve been like, ‘Can we stop talking about this?’

It’s fine to talk about it, but after a while, once I answer one or two questions, then it becomes all about him, and I’m not doing his interviews. He should do his own interviews, you know what I’m saying? So it’s not fair to me to ask me a bunch of questions about him. I know everyone does that, because I’m the closest thing to him, or the only one talking about it. A couple of questions here and there is fine, though.

I’ll ask you one question. Did he ever make you breakfast?

Yes. Why does everyone always ask that question?

Because there are so many stories that circulate about Prince showing up somewhere and inviting them to his house for breakfast.

That’s true. I lived with him. Of course, he made me breakfast, and I made him breakfast. No one asks me, ‘Have you made Prince breakfast?’

Okay, I’ll ask you. Have you made Prince breakfast?


What did you make him?

Eggs. He loved eggs. Scrambled eggs. He loved scrambled eggs, pancakes — he loved my pancakes. And he loved my lemon cake.




TIME Music

Watch John Mellencamp’s Video for “Troubled Man”: Premiere

The legendary singer-songwriter chatted with TIME about Plain Spoken, The Bachelor and why rock has been dead for a long time

John Mellencamp will release his 22nd full-length album, Plain Spoken, on September 23. After a four-year hiatus, Mellancamp has marked his return with an elegant and soul-searching album that finds him questioning life, authority and his beliefs. Now, TIME is pleased to premiere the video for the album’s lead single “Troubled Man,” an acoustic-guitar driven charmer.

In an interview, the singer-songwriter opened up about Plain Spoken, Gene Simmons, Farm Aid and The Bachelor:

TIME: Your new album seems very mature in that it tackles a lot of issues. Like there’s ‘Troubled Man,’ which just on its title alone indicates darkness. Have you been working through a lot?

John Mellencamp: It’s not really darkness. My guess is that you were a literature major somewhere. If you read Steinbeck, you read Tennessee Williams, you read Faulkner, you read any of those type of people — even Shakespeare — it’s all about human comedy. The catastrophe of life. That’s what I write about.

On ‘Sometimes There’s God,’ it seems like you’re struggling with religion, too.

No, no, no.

No? What is the song about?

Well, sometimes there’s God. In other words, if you look at the first verse, the first line, sometimes there’s God in someone else’s eyes, meaning that you can find yourself and find peace of mind, which is what religion is supposed to provide, in many different places. And sometimes, that song says, you just can’t. Sometimes in a human’s life you just can’t find peace of mind. Can’t do it. I’m sure that you’ve experienced that yourself. It’s like, where do I put myself? How did I get here? What am I doing? Those moments. Sometimes it feels like there’s no God. I mean, if you just had a baby and it was autistic, you might say, if you believed in God, ‘Why?’ Just sometimes there’s God, and sometimes there’s not. I’m not struggling with if there’s God or not. I have my beliefs. I’m 62 years old, I’ve thought about it, and I’ve come to conclusions. They may not be right, but it’s how I feel.

On “Lawless Times,” it sounds like you’re tackling a different sort of issue. Can you tell me about that song?

“Lawless Times” is a nod and a wink to how our society has changed. That song originally was, I think, 300 verses long. I had to edit it down. There are a lot of lighthearted pokes at the Catholic Church, because of all the child molestation.

It also talks about people tapping cell phones and digital music theft.

Don’t get me started on digital music, because I said a lot of years ago and caught a lot of crap about it that the Internet is the most dangerous invention since the atomic bomb. And people went, ‘Oh, yeah,’ and I got all this pushback, but the fact of the matter is, it’s true. I mean, we have no privacy for starters, and not to mention, we could as a country wage all kinds of warfare against some other country over the Internet, and shut down their electrical grid and vice versa. Shut down the banking systems. There’s a lot of trouble that could be caused with that f—ing Internet that most people use to send naked pictures of themselves, or maybe a certain higher-education person might do research on. But basically it’s for people to f— off on.

Are you sort of a Luddite?

I don’t really use the Internet. I’m one of the people that might research online. Makes it quicker than going to the library, sorry to say. But I don’t shop online.

Do you have a cell phone?

Yeah. I only knew two guys who didn’t have a cell phone: me and Bob Dylan. Bob still doesn’t have one, and I had to get one when I got divorced because my wife had one, but I got divorced about four years ago, so I had to get a cell phone because I have kids. If I didn’t have kids, I wouldn’t have a cell phone.

You’d just wait for people to call you on your landline?

I don’t want anybody calling me anyway. So you don’t have to worry about calling me. Don’t bother!

Being an artist as well as a musician, you must really value your alone time, though.

Yes, I do take great delight in my own company.

Can you create when there are other people around, or do you need complete isolation?

I need pretty much complete isolation just to exist. Just to be alive, to live. I prefer not to be around a lot of people. I don’t know that that has much to do with being an artist, but that’s just the way I prefer to live and that’s why I live where I live. I live on 86 acres in the middle of nowhere, and I get to a town if I need supplies.

You’re about to head out on a massive tour. Are tours hellish for you?

They can be, like any other job. Part of playing live is that I think that an artist who’s interested in what they’re going to create next, and having to go out and play songs that you wrote 25 years ago can get to be tedious a job, but the audience generally softens the flow of that type of work.

You’ve been doing this for almost 40 years now. Are you surprised by the longevity of your career?

Oh, I think that everybody is. I mean nobody really in 1974 or 75 nobody really anticipated this being a lifelong career thing. What music is today is so far from what it was when I started. I mean, it couldn’t be any further away. Music was a youth-driven thing, for rebellious youth to express themselves, and the whole hippie thing was happening, and we were going to change the world. It’s all about that. And of course now it’s all tore up, but I can’t help what they made it. I can’t help it. Because other people make it bad, that doesn’t mean that I can change the world. I can’t. I’m just a guy with a guitar.

But you’ve also never shied away from taking political stances in your music or onstage. Do you feel like up-and-coming rock stars and pop stars these days are apolitical?

Well, I don’t know about them. I can’t speak for them. I don’t know what they think. I think Taylor Swift is cute. Other than that, I don’t know anything about her.

Is it disappointing that this younger generation isn’t willing to take a stand about stuff?

There are a lot of reasons for that, and I don’t blame them at all. When I was a kid, there was something called the Vietnam War and the draft. It motivated a lot of young people to get involved in politics. I’m sure that if there was a draft today and young people were faced with the idea of going to Syria or Afghanistan, they would have a louder voice. They would think, ‘Oh, s–t. What am I getting drafted for? To go do what?’ So when the draft was eliminated, which we were all happy about at the time, it took young people out of the mix, which was really good for the old people who run the world, because the young people were f—ing them up. Politicians today don’t have to worry about it, because young people won’t even talk about it, because they don’t give a s–t. They don’t care, because they’re not involved. I’ll tell you what: you want young people to talk about politics, reinstate the draft.

Speaking of political issues, you founded Farm Aid. Do you think the plight of the farmer is kind of overlooked in this day and age?

It’s so complicated. It’s not a generic, sweeping statement. If you just look at what the government have passed as food for children — your children, my children, in school — it’s not really to do with their health, is it? It’s really to do with the dairy farmers. It has to do with the people who grow crops, Big Corn. A lot of decisions being made about money and not the well-being of people. So Farm Aid is about so many things. The very first year we did it, it was just about trying to keep the small farmer on the land, and it’s a never-ending problem. They pass all these farm bills, but they’re not really to help the small farmer — they’re all to help corporate farming. I mean, we all know we shouldn’t drink dairy, right? What do they serve in school to drink? Dairy. Think that’s an accident? Or they serve soft drinks. You think that’s an accident? No! There’s f–ing tons of money being made here, and it’s not for the well being of the children.

This is going to sound silly, but hear me out: The Bachelor, the TV show, just cast a farmer as its star.

I don’t know about The Bachelor. I’ve never watched it.

Do you think drawing attention to the fact that people still run family farms in America is a good reminder?

I don’t think it could hurt. But anytime you take a subject like that and you make it fodder for a television show, how serious are people going to take it? We have serious issues in this problem and to make it light entertainment, it just hits me sideways.

This is your first album under a lifetime contract with Republic Records. What made you want to sign a lifetime contract?

Well, about 10 to 12 years ago, I’d had a record contract for 30-something years, and I really didn’t like it. I don’t work for anybody. I don’t like working for anybody — I’ve never been employed by anybody — and the idea of having to release records on a time schedule, which I had done for 20-something years. So I got out of my record deal, and I didn’t want a record deal. I thought I would just be a free agent, and every time I wanted to make a record I’d just go someplace assigned to make one record. But after 10 to 12 years, it became very tedious, so we decided that I like the guy who runs Republic and we made a deal that I don’t have to release records on any time schedule. I just do what I want. It’s a special deal.

Your musical Ghost Brothers of Darkland County is also hitting the road again. How many times have you seen it?

I’ve seen it enough to know it still needs work — it’s been 15 years — but Steve [Stephen King] and I are closing in on it.

It’s still a work in progress?

Everything is, honey. Art is never done: it’s only abandoned.

How do you know when an album is done?

You abandon it. Yes, always abandon. It’s never done.

Is that the same with your paintings?

Sure. I have paintings that I’m still painting on that are 20 years old. I’ll have a painting, because I never throw anything away, never. I have jeans older than you. I have boots older than you.

As a musician and an artist, when inspiration strikes you, is it geared towards being represented visually versus musically?

I’m sure you’ve heard this many times, and I know it sounds phony people who don’t do it, but when you’re a songwriter or you’re a painter, it’s not even so much inspiration as what I call channeling. And sometimes when I write songs, the ideas come so fast that my hand doesn’t move quick enough to keep up with it. My mind is open to this idea. I don’t go, ‘You know I’m going to write a really nice song for Melissa.’ I don’t do that. The song is just sent to me, and I write them down. If they’re about ‘Sometimes It’s God,’ if they’re about the ‘Isolation of Mister,’ I write them down. Painting’s the same way. It’s always surprising to me. I never know what the f–k I’m talking about. I don’t know what the songs are about. I don’t know how the painting’s going to end up. I don’t know when I’m going to quit on the painting.

Now, some people get to channel good stuff, some people not so good, and some people who are songwriters don’t even know this, and they write these songs that I don’t know what the f–k they’re talking about. I don’t know why they would even write them, but they do. And they play them on the radio! [laughs]

Gene Simmons recently said, ‘Rock is dead.’ Do you buy that?

Oh, yeah. It’s been dead for years. It’s dead. It’s over. Rock has been dead since probably the early ‘90s. It’s over. What an insightful guy Gene Simmons is to realize that, in 2014, rock is dead. Gene, it’s been dead for f—ing 25 years!

Why do you think it’s dead?

I don’t think it’s dead; I know it’s dead.

Well, how do you know it’s dead?

The reason rock is dead is because the foundation is no longer there. It’s about money, it’s about needing another country singer on the ticket. The foundation of rock music was rebellion against the establishment. How in the f—ing hell can a 62-year-old man be writing songs…That’s why my records sound like they do. They’re age-appropriate. I don’t even consider myself a rock singer. I consider myself a songwriter. You don’t ever see me use the word rock and roll related to myself. Other people may. Rocker John Mellencamp. It’s like, what the f–k are you talking about? Rocker John Mellencamp. Back in 1982, maybe. But not now. I mean, guys my age get on stage and try to act like they’re rocking. It’s funny.

Gene Simmons is out there.

Yeah, and he looks like a dope.

And there’s people like Keith Richards.

Baby, those guys are out there trying to recapture something that they once had. I’m sure that if you ask Keith Richards, he’ll tell you: ‘I’m doing the best I can. This is the best I can do. Am I the Keith Richards on stage that I was in 1972? No. But am I as good a guitar player? Yes.’ So you can’t just make a big generalization and say they’re out rocking. No, they’re not. Keith Richards is nothing on stage like he was in 1969.

Are you still having fun?

Yeah. Not the kind of fun that one would think. Not the kind of fun that I once had, when I was a young guy in a black-leather jacket. But fun is relative and fun for me today is being able to create something and go, ‘I like that. That’s good. That’s good.’ Fun for me is being able to go, ‘Wow, my son is in Golden Gloves. Great.’ My one son goes to RISD. I have a daughter who just had a baby. That’s fun. That kind of stuff is fun. Fun is relevant. Do I go out and get drunk after the show? No. I haven’t been drunk since 1971.

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