Over the years, Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp have followed roughly similar career arcs. They both debuted in the ’70s and under-appreciated singer-songwriters. They both became stadium-status MTV icons in the ’80s by singing anthemic and synthy rock anthems about common-man struggles. They have both since eased into elder-statesman respectability. Springsteen and Mellencamp aren’t exactly on equal levels historically, but it’s fair to call them peers. And now they have a song together.
Springsteen and Mellencamp have always been friendly. Way back in the late ’70s, on a song that went unreleased for years, Mellencamp sang, “It’s getting hard to justify my position when everything I’m sayin’ can be said better by Mr. Springsteen.” Years later, in 1988, Springsteen joined Mellencamp onstage at one of his shows to cover Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone.” Since then, they’ve performed together a few more times. Two years ago, at a benefit in New York, they sang “Glory Days” and “Pink Houses” together. This past year, Springsteen and Mellencamp have been spotted hanging out in public a few times, and Springsteen has mentioned that he’s been working with Mellencamp on a new album. Today, they’ve shared “Wasted Days,” their first-ever on-record duet.
Mellencamp wrote and produced “Wasted Days.” Springsteen sings and plays acoustic guitar on it. The song is probably about what you’d expect from these two guys at this stage. It’s a grizzled, folksy lament about mortality: “We watch out lives just fade away/ More wasted days.” But both of them sound very much alive, and it’s cool to hear those two voices together. Listen below.