Songwriters Explain the Meaning Behind Keith Urban’s ‘John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16′
Keith Urban is quickly climbing the charts with his latest single, "John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16," from his upcoming new album. And, as the song's writers — Shane McAnally, Ross Copperman and Josh Osborne — explain, each of the tune's titular Johns represents more than just a musician, a farm equipment brand and a Bible verse, respectively.
"John Cougar references all the sort of sexual tension of teenage angst all of us were growing up in," McAnally tells Billboard. "John Deere represents the way that our parents worked and what we saw living in the country, and of course [there’s] the element of religion. And [there’s] irony in John Cougar starting the line and John 3:16 ending the line because that was the push and pull of that teenage thing."
The throwback lyrics also reference Don McLean, Kris Kristofferson, John Wayne, Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway, among others (not to mention Wheel of Fortune). The line that goes "I'm a child of a backseat freedom, baptized by rock 'n' roll / Marilyn Monroe and the Garden of Eden, never grow up, never grow old" is Osborne's "favorite line in the whole song," even though he admits that he "[doesn't] exactly know what that line means."
Urban first performed "John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16" at the 2015 Country Radio Seminar in February, but he admits that he wasn't sure it was a success until he watched a video of his performance a few days later.
"Maybe two days later, somebody sent me a YouTube link, and that’s the first time I actually heard the crowd react to the end of the first chorus," Urban recalls. "I thought, ‘Oh, that’s a good sign.' It’s sort of like the punch line landed, and they laughed.
"It connected in the way I hoped it would," he continues, "so I think that’s probably what had all of us start thinking maybe that’s the first song we should get in the studio and work on."
Download "John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16" on iTunes.
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