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Campaign bringing Mellencamp back to MTV

John Mellencamp hasn’t appeared at the MTV Video Music Awards since the mid-1980s, but the singer says the right cause will bring him to Sunday’s live telecast in Miami.

“I’m going to talk about freedom of speech and protest songs,” the Bloomington musician said Thursday. “And then I’m introducing Outkast.”

Mellencamp will join younger stars such as Usher, Jessica Simpson and Dave Chappelle on the program, which is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on the cable network.

An MTV spokesman wouldn’t reveal what song Outkast plans to perform. The hip-hop duo, nominated for five awards, has recorded songs titled “Bombs Over Baghdad” and “War.”

In early October, Mellencamp will play five concerts as part of the “Vote for Change” series sponsored by the MoveOn.org political action committee.

Shows in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – generally considered to be anti-President Bush events – will feature artists ranging from Bruce Springsteen and James Taylor to the Dixie Chicks and Pearl Jam.

“I love the comment, ‘The only reason Springsteen and Mellencamp are doing this is to help their careers,’ ” Mellencamp said. “If I wanted to help my career, I would stay out of this stuff. I can assure you, I don’t like politics, and I don’t want to be involved with politicians. But I see a problem with freedom of speech, and I see a problem with division in this country. It’s hurting the common man.”

Meanwhile, a two-CD anthology of Mellencamp songs is scheduled for release Oct. 19. He expects to perform as many as 70 tour dates to support “Words & Music: John Mellencamp’s Greatest Hits.”

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