This is a duet with the female soul singer India.Arie, whose career was just getting started. She flew to Bloomington, Indiana to record this with Mellencamp after appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show in Chicago to promote her first album, Acoustic Soul.
The song deals with issues of race. Mellencamp has often brought up the subject, including in lyrics about a black man in "Pink Houses," and a white girl dancing with a black man in the video for "Cherry Bomb." In "Peaceful World," the message is much more overt, as India.Arie sings: "Racism lives in the US today."
The song was first played during the 2001 Indy 500 in a commercial for the Indy Racing League (IRL). India.Arie was not on the version in the commercial.
It became the official song of the Indy Racing League. Mellencamp's wife, model Elaine Irwin-Mellencamp, was a spokeswoman for the racing league.
This was released about a month before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in America. With members of his band singing some of the lines with him, Mellencamp performed the song at the 2001 "Concert For New York," a benefit for victims of the World Trade Center disaster. The song fit the mood of the country at the time, as it explores some of the problems America faces in the verses but resolves with a hopeful chorus: "Everything is cool as can be in a peaceful world."
Mellencamp contributed a live, acoustic version of this to the Columbia Records compilation CD God Bless America, which was released as a benefit for the Twin Towers Fund.
The song got decent airplay, but could only bubble under on the Hot 100, peaking at #104. Mellencamp attributed this poor chart showing to a lack of promotion by his label, Columbia Records, and to a bias against older artists in the industry. In the '80s, most of Mellencamp's singles became at least minor hits, but by the '00s he found himself out of favor in the industry, even though he felt he was doing some of his best work. For his 2006 single "Our Country," he allowed the song to be used in a car commercial as a way of getting it heard, since he knew radio stations would ignore it.
Mason from Prior Lake, MnThis is one of my all-time favorites. It's about very serious social problems, but it isn't preachy or anything, and it has a very optimistic view of things! I couldn't write a better song if I tried.