John Prine: C or D? (plus RFI: new album)

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I only got his 2CD a few weeks ago, totally unaware that his first CD of originals in years was coming out this year. Anybody heard it yet?

Oh, and classic classic classic.

miccio (miccio), Wednesday, 27 April 2005 00:54 (sixteen years ago) link

I only have the Sweet Revenge album. And I love it. Classic.

buck van morrison (Buck Van Smack), Wednesday, 27 April 2005 00:57 (sixteen years ago) link

Easy classic.

Roadkill Bingo (Roadkill Bingo), Wednesday, 27 April 2005 01:10 (sixteen years ago) link

we did at least one other john prine thread, i think...

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Wednesday, 27 April 2005 01:50 (sixteen years ago) link

yeah, prine vs. newman. I am not reviving it cuz I love both.

miccio (miccio), Wednesday, 27 April 2005 01:58 (sixteen years ago) link


earinfections (Nick Twisp), Wednesday, 27 April 2005 02:22 (sixteen years ago) link

Classic. 'Sweet Revenge' is my favorite, though 'Storm Windows' is right up there, too. I think 'Bruised Orange' falls down on its last two tracks; otherwise, it's also brilliant. He's pretty awesome. I love that Roger Miller is one of his major influences.

Rickey Wright (Rrrickey), Wednesday, 27 April 2005 03:37 (sixteen years ago) link

ok, well, classic obv.

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Wednesday, 27 April 2005 04:12 (sixteen years ago) link

Yah. Spotted him from a 3rd story window in Georgetown, DC a few years back and ran down to do the whole hand-shake thing. (Made easier by having seen his show the previous night.) Just your average humble genius songwriting legend -- from what I could tell -- who needed some advice on where to eat. Nothing special.

Classic. From here to there up, down and sideways.

Evanston Wade (EWW), Wednesday, 27 April 2005 04:42 (sixteen years ago) link

The, uh, "King of the Road"/"Kansas City Star" Roger Miller, that is.


Rickey Wright (Rrrickey), Wednesday, 27 April 2005 06:36 (sixteen years ago) link

Classic and classy. I mostly know his famous songs, the ones on all the compilations, but his Christmas album's also good, and the duets album he put out a few years back is great (especially the songs he did with Iris DeMent, whose voice is a good match with his).

gypsy mothra (gypsy mothra), Wednesday, 27 April 2005 06:49 (sixteen years ago) link

Classic, with no reservations.

The first record is a masterpiece, and next two are very fine. In Spite Of Ourselves (the duet record) is also excellent.

Keith C (kcraw916), Wednesday, 27 April 2005 12:22 (sixteen years ago) link

Classic. His voice sometimes bothers me, but the songs are wonderful.

Lyra Jane (Lyra Jane), Wednesday, 27 April 2005 12:36 (sixteen years ago) link

i'd just like to say that i just "got" john prine last week. it finally made an impact on me. i get it now, people! where is my medal!?

katie hasty (katie, a princess), Wednesday, 27 April 2005 15:40 (sixteen years ago) link

My dad's favourite singer (since my dad doesn't mess around with terms like "singer-songwriter"), so I grew up with him, but didn't "get" him beyond being fascinated with the wordplay until I was about 22.
Stone cold genius. "Quiet Man" is one of my all time favourite songs.
I have a weird affection for Common Sense, too. Esp. "Saddle in the Rain."

Huk-L, Wednesday, 27 April 2005 15:54 (sixteen years ago) link

Definitely classic. That 2 CD set you got is one of my favorite comps ever by anyone. The version of "Angel From Montgomery" on there is probably one of two or three intentionally maudlin songs that really gets to me every single time I hear it (and I have heard it a lot). I'd agree with whoever said Sweet Revenge is his best, miccio; you should get that for "Mexican Home" and "Grandpa Was a Carpenter" alone (it's the album that has xmas in prison, blue umbrella, sweet revenge, and please don't bury me from the comp). For more recent stuff, I think the place to start is the live album from the mid 90s, which I think is just called "Live on Tour."

I picked up the new one yesterday and its...about what you'd expect if you've heard the last few things he's done. It's pretty much just straightforward PrineRock. Lots of roots flourishes and pretty straightforward lyrics. I wouldn't really reccomend buying it unless you already have pretty much all his other stuff. This probably sounds like a slam, but it's not, I LIKE the record, but it's not sounding like an essential album to me right now.

I can't relate to whoever said they had a problem with his voice. His voice is what makes it for me, even when the songs are a little shaky, as they have been lately. Seeing him on the 21st here in Seattle, couldn't be more excited.

Scott CE (Scott CE), Wednesday, 27 April 2005 16:20 (sixteen years ago) link

God this really makes me wish I had that set at work right now. I could really go for some "Fish and Whistle."

P.S. The "Anti-War" song on the new album, predictably, is awful awful awful.

Scott CE (Scott CE), Wednesday, 27 April 2005 16:29 (sixteen years ago) link

"Angel From Montgomery", when he says, "I am an old woman," you believe him.

Huk-L, Wednesday, 27 April 2005 16:36 (sixteen years ago) link

Well, I got my window shield so filled
With flags I couldn't see.
So, I ran the car upside a curb
And right into a tree.
By the time they got a doctor down
I was already dead.
And I'll never understand why the man
Standing in the Pearly Gates said...

"But your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more.
We're already overcrowded
From your dirty little war.
Now Jesus don't like killin'
No matter what the reason's for,
And your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more."

gypsy mothra (gypsy mothra), Wednesday, 27 April 2005 17:28 (sixteen years ago) link

That's definitely another song that should've made it into the anthology.

Scott CE (Scott CE), Wednesday, 27 April 2005 17:48 (sixteen years ago) link

"While digestin' Readers' Digest at the back of the dirty book store"

Huk-L, Wednesday, 27 April 2005 17:50 (sixteen years ago) link

It's really his wit that made him an instant favorite for me. I loved him the second I heard "Bowl of oatmeal tried to stare me down...and won."

miccio (miccio), Wednesday, 27 April 2005 17:54 (sixteen years ago) link

The thing about that is that, especially on those first few albums, his comic timing was really hot too. Especially that line. And then when he stretches out "Personally" geez!

Huk-L, Wednesday, 27 April 2005 17:57 (sixteen years ago) link

Love him. "Christmas in Prison" is one of the most beautiful songs in the world.

rebecca s (rebecca S), Wednesday, 27 April 2005 21:09 (sixteen years ago) link

eight months pass...
No love for The Missing Years here? One of his best inmho.

Jim Reckling (Jim Reckling), Saturday, 21 January 2006 06:21 (fifteen years ago) link

The Missing Years was my first, and I loved it immediately. One of my favorite lyricists ever. Yet my fave album of his might be In Spite of Ourselves, which is all covers but one. Go figure.

Matos-Webster Dictionary (M Matos), Saturday, 21 January 2006 07:05 (fifteen years ago) link

in spite of ourselves is great, partly because it showcases his singing, so loose and grizzled and funny, and the duet partners are all really good. that album makes me happy like few things.

gypsy mothra (gypsy mothra), Saturday, 21 January 2006 07:52 (fifteen years ago) link

He's got grate taste in covers too, that's another reason why that album is so great. All those songs are gems.

Keith C (lync0), Saturday, 21 January 2006 15:22 (fifteen years ago) link

So where do I start?

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn (Alfred Soto), Saturday, 21 January 2006 16:24 (fifteen years ago) link

In Spite of Ourselves is genius. And the one original is probably my favorite song on there. I always think about compiling of a CD of the originals, which I'm sure somebody has done. I'm just lazy when it comes to small projects like that.

TRG (TRG), Saturday, 21 January 2006 16:34 (fifteen years ago) link

I'd start where I started, with The Missing Years. Sins of Memphisto and, of course, Jesus, The Missing Years, makes it worthwhile, but it's all really good - he does everything so effortlessly, so charmingly...he really makes it look easy. And then you listen to half a dozen other...ahem...singer songwriters and you see that isn't. He was good from the getgo - his first album 'John Prine' (at least I assume it's his first album) is excellent.

Ned T.Rifle (nedtrifle), Saturday, 21 January 2006 16:47 (fifteen years ago) link

Can't go wrong with the first album (s/t)

Keith C (lync0), Saturday, 21 January 2006 17:49 (fifteen years ago) link

I would start with the Rhino anthology Great Days. It covers up thru the Missing Years. Then get In Spite of Ourselves and Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings and his latest Fair and Square and you probably have all the Prine you MAY need. Then again maybe the thing to do is just get the debut and go from there.

Jim Reckling (Jim Reckling), Sunday, 22 January 2006 04:27 (fifteen years ago) link

I am so psyched, got great seats for Prine in concert here. Anyone here seen him lately? I am assuming he plays a lot off the new album, which is ok with me as I love it.

Jim Reckling (Jim Reckling), Saturday, 4 February 2006 04:53 (fifteen years ago) link

I was really glad to see Prine won the Contemp Folk Album award over Springsteen and others at the Grammys this year. I also loved his comment that beating was not what was great about it, the fact that he beat Columbia and his record company has 3 employees is what he liked. Sometimes the good guys finish first.

Jim Reckling (Jim Reckling), Friday, 10 February 2006 05:10 (fifteen years ago) link

Sorry meant to say that beating Springsteen was not what was great about it. Bedtime.

Jim Reckling (Jim Reckling), Friday, 10 February 2006 05:16 (fifteen years ago) link

five months pass...
If you don't find "Hello in There" touching, you are probably a heartless bastard.

M@tt He1geson: Real Name, No Gimmicks (Matt Helgeson), Tuesday, 25 July 2006 18:35 (fourteen years ago) link

I've lately fallen in love with the glossy sounds of Common Sense.

Huk-L (Huk-L), Tuesday, 25 July 2006 18:55 (fourteen years ago) link

Thanks everyone. I bought the eponymous in February. It's fantastic: a human low-key Dylan, with a folksy humor that's from cloying.

I may get the '90s album produced by the Heartbreaker next.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn (Alfred Soto), Tuesday, 25 July 2006 19:05 (fourteen years ago) link

I've lately fallen in love with the glossy sounds of Common Sense.
-- Huk-L (handsomishbo...), July 25th, 2006.

I have a weird affection for Common Sense, too. Esp. "Saddle in the Rain."
-- Huk-L (handsomishbo...), April 27th, 2005.

Lately is a word I seldom use (correctly).

Huk-L (Huk-L), Tuesday, 25 July 2006 19:08 (fourteen years ago) link

that album from last year was pretty great, and the first track on it makes me cry like a child

Thomas Tallis (Tommy), Tuesday, 25 July 2006 21:23 (fourteen years ago) link

I've been listeing to Diamonds in the Rough a lot recently, the oddly neglected classic. "Souvenirs." "Rocky Mountain Time."

"The waitress yelled at me. So did the food."

ramon fernandez (ramon fernandez), Thursday, 27 July 2006 11:21 (fourteen years ago) link

two months pass...
"Saddle in the Rain" is so classic. And Rebecca S is OTM about "Christmas in Prison."

clotpoll (Clotpoll), Sunday, 1 October 2006 20:57 (fourteen years ago) link

DITR: "I Guess They Oughta Name a Drink After You."

Rickey Wright (Rrrickey), Monday, 2 October 2006 04:30 (fourteen years ago) link

Classic. Classic, classic.
It was 12 o'clock before I realized I was having no fun.

wolfwolfwolf (wolfwolfwolf), Monday, 2 October 2006 04:33 (fourteen years ago) link

"All the Best," from The Missing Years, is one of my gold standards for lyric writing. It's absolutely perfect.

Matos-Webster Dictionary (M Matos), Monday, 2 October 2006 12:37 (fourteen years ago) link

one year passes...

finally got The Missing Years. Not at the level of the s/t or Storm Windows, but the production glitz (John Mellencamp co-write) suits him.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Sunday, 27 January 2008 20:42 (thirteen years ago) link

He also co-wrote Mellencamp's "Jackie O" on the great great great Uh Huh.

If Timi Yuro would be still alive, most other singers could shut up, Monday, 28 January 2008 06:41 (thirteen years ago) link

So you went to a party with Jacqueline Onassis
If you're so smart, girl, why don't you wear glasses
So you can see what you're doin' to me

If Timi Yuro would be still alive, most other singers could shut up, Monday, 28 January 2008 06:43 (thirteen years ago) link


Tracer Hand, Monday, 28 January 2008 11:40 (thirteen years ago) link

don't know how well known this is but I was amazed to learn that part of his break into the biz was this review by Roger Ebert, who was supposedly compelled to write it after just happening to see him play out one night. On top of how remarkable that story is, it's amazing to read about that first album's worth of classic songs all so fully formed and affecting when he was still working his day job.


Lavator Shemmelpennick, Wednesday, 8 April 2020 14:02 (one year ago) link

saw kristoffersons liner notes from the first album too, a nice heartfelt run through of kris, post-gug himself, being dragged across town to see this guy after the bar hed played was closed and sitting there amidst upturned chairs for two dozen songs

ole uncle tiktok (darraghmac), Wednesday, 8 April 2020 14:09 (one year ago) link

xpost I was coming here to post just that Ebert piece.

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 8 April 2020 14:51 (one year ago) link

After all the health problems this man battled and kept on singing and playing, and this shitty virus takes him out when he had so many great songs in him. Fuck this.

TO BE A JAZZ SINGER YOU HAVE TO BE ABLE TO SCAT (Jazzbo), Wednesday, 8 April 2020 15:04 (one year ago) link

If I was to try the music of John Prine, knowing that smart lyrics are not something I care very much about, which album should I try? Which one has the most interesting music, in other words? Did he ever work with a producer who tried to get him out of “rootsy” country-folk-singer-songwriter land?

but also fuck you (unperson), Wednesday, 8 April 2020 15:06 (one year ago) link

Sweet Revenge has some of the sympathetic musical settings, thanks to Arif Mardin.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 8 April 2020 15:09 (one year ago) link

I just compared that album elsewhere to Shotgun Willie.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 8 April 2020 15:09 (one year ago) link

unperson, the Howie Epstein-produced albums are far from staid too if uneven. I know you're a Petty and the Heartbreakers fan.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 8 April 2020 15:12 (one year ago) link

Agree that Sweet Revenge is your best bet, but really if you're not into lyrics or "rootsy"/songwriter sonics then JP just might not be your bag

turn the jawhatthefuckever on (One Eye Open), Wednesday, 8 April 2020 15:29 (one year ago) link

I hate to say it but that's pretty much otm. Prine epitomizes "rootsy singer-songwriter known for his lyrics." Maybe "In Spite of Ourselves" for the novelty of the excellent duet partners?

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 8 April 2020 15:32 (one year ago) link

I think Common Sense is a great album, though I get the impression that might be a minority opinion. But yeah, if you're not into lyrics, John Prine might not be for you.

The fillyjonk who believed in pandemics (Lily Dale), Wednesday, 8 April 2020 15:41 (one year ago) link

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 8 April 2020 15:47 (one year ago) link

Ebert remained a fan--I recall a little 'last album I bought' blurb in Blender of all places wherein Ebert mentioned he'd finally replaced his Prine vinyl with CDs, and that he was "America's Greatest Living Songwriter".

"...And the Gods Socially Distanced" (C. Grisso/McCain), Wednesday, 8 April 2020 16:28 (one year ago) link

could also just listen to bonnie raitt sing angel from montgomery, kris and joan sing hello in there

ole uncle tiktok (darraghmac), Wednesday, 8 April 2020 18:37 (one year ago) link

Is there a song about going for some form of martial arts lessons and being left one armed by the huge japanese teacher so who's going to pick a fight with him?
Have been having this crop up on my walkman for ages and assuming its him . Cos it sounds like some of his other work musicall y and vocally I think.

Stevolende, Wednesday, 8 April 2020 18:57 (one year ago) link

Awesome poster my friend was commissioned to make for Prine a few years ago:

That's the house Prine grew up in. It's about a mile west of where I live.

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 8 April 2020 22:31 (one year ago) link

Straight up bawling while listening to "Hello in There" and "Boundless Love" today.

Maria Edgelord (cryptosicko), Thursday, 9 April 2020 00:24 (one year ago) link

I have a vivid memory of seeing an educational film in elementary school when I was in 5th grade (1976-77), that used that song to teach us younguns about how old people are people too

sleeve, Thursday, 9 April 2020 00:31 (one year ago) link

(re: "Hello In There")

sleeve, Thursday, 9 April 2020 00:32 (one year ago) link

xp that’s townes van zandt’s “talkin karate blues”

budo jeru, Thursday, 9 April 2020 00:35 (one year ago) link

Farewell to an idea.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 9 April 2020 00:40 (one year ago) link

Alfred, I don't always agree with your opinions, but your writing is very, very good and I always feel I learn something when I read it.

Why, I would make a fantastic Nero! (PBKR), Thursday, 9 April 2020 01:52 (one year ago) link

Looking at all the John Prine quotations that people have been posting online, it's amazing how many of them are from his last album. How rare is that? A late-career album so good that when people think John Prine, those songs come to mind just as readily as "Hello in There" or "Angel from Montgomery."

The fillyjonk who believed in pandemics (Lily Dale), Thursday, 9 April 2020 05:41 (one year ago) link

He was having one of those moments, kind of like Roy Orbison had at the (also unexpected) end of his career where everyone woke up and realized he was amazing.

"...And the Gods Socially Distanced" (C. Grisso/McCain), Thursday, 9 April 2020 06:17 (one year ago) link

Right thanks seems about as odd from TVZ compared to his other stuff. Got a lot of him turning up on there too.

Stevolende, Thursday, 9 April 2020 06:19 (one year ago) link

I think the John Prine resurgence (as such) began with "In Spite of Ourselves," his first comeback record. His most recent, final record was his first album of original material in, what, 15 years? So that also gave it a certain "comeback" stature. Then again, I remember as a younger guy seeing ads for "The Missing Years" all over magazines in the early '90s, so maybe that was his first "comeback." Of course, the key is that (health battles aside) Prine never really went anywhere, and unlike, say, Dylan, there was no dramatic return to form, because there was never really a dip.

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 9 April 2020 12:23 (one year ago) link

He'd become a real hip name to drop in Americana circles in the last 5-8 years. Kacey Musgraves, Margo Price, Tyler Childers, and Sturgill Simpson (among others) loudly citing Prine as an influence. IIRC, Simpson even took out office space next to Prine's so he can hang out with him more.

"...And the Gods Socially Distanced" (C. Grisso/McCain), Thursday, 9 April 2020 15:59 (one year ago) link

But yeah The Missing Years (and Rhino's Great Days anthology the next year) really reestablished him at the time, then In Spite Of Ourselves later kept his name out there for awhile.

"...And the Gods Socially Distanced" (C. Grisso/McCain), Thursday, 9 April 2020 16:05 (one year ago) link

The Heartbreakers were at their popular zenith in 1990-1991, so anytime Howie Epstein produced an artist the publicity guaranteed strong sales (see: Carlene Carter). Like I wrote, Prine was a presence at the big box stores of the nineties, with Lost Dogs and ISOO plainly visible.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 9 April 2020 16:34 (one year ago) link

Alfred, I don't always agree with your opinions, but your writing is very, very good and I always feel I learn something when I read it.

― Why, I would make a fantastic Nero! (PBKR),

This day. Thank you.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 9 April 2020 16:34 (one year ago) link

Listening to Marc Maron's 2016 interview with John Prine (good reason to hear him, but I'm not liking the trend of the why these old interviews are out there again). Prine's story about taking his kids to see Snakes On A Plane and finding J.D. Souther to be the only other guy at the screening brought an unexpected, but much needed, smile to my face this morning.

soaring skrrrtpeggios (jon /via/ chi 2.0), Thursday, 9 April 2020 16:42 (one year ago) link

DON: Well, yeah.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 9 April 2020 16:43 (one year ago) link

someone should assemble an album that's just john prine's between-song chatter at concerts. he was so funny.

na (NA), Thursday, 9 April 2020 16:48 (one year ago) link

Like when he yelled at those kids for eating ice cream? Ice cream eating motherfuckers.

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 9 April 2020 16:54 (one year ago) link

Despite knowing this song for almost 25 years, and being a fan of both artists forever, I somehow never knew that it was Prine singing backup on this song from Dar Williams' 1996 album Mortal City:

Maria Edgelord (cryptosicko), Thursday, 9 April 2020 17:27 (one year ago) link


Im very sorry it took me so long..I had to go into the woods and let myself “just feel” this for a while.
You left on a gorgeous moon.

There are sometimes people in this life that you meet, seldom and few and far between it would seem, whose souls are so good and pure and beautiful that when they leave it seems if only for a brief while that everything else good and pure and beautiful in this world just left along with them. It blows you apart leaving everyone to see you broken. But then you come out of the woods and the funk to see the signs of Spring all around you and remember the joy and love they put into the world by always giving so much of themselves and you suddenly see them everywhere.

There is so much I never said only because I didn’t want to bother you with it. After all you never asked to be “John Prine”. There is so much I’ll never get to say now. You reminded me so much of my Grandfather it hurt sometimes. I never told you that.
I will miss the tours..I will miss our lunches..I will miss you listening to me bitch and complain about all the things you understood all too well and making me feel better sometimes by just sitting there saying nothing.
I will miss catching flies in mid-air with my hand just to make you laugh..I will miss showing up to the office and knowing Id just missed you there by finding my drums upside down..I will miss your corny ass jokes.
I will miss you. Every day.

So long old man.
You will always be loved.

Josh in Chicago, Friday, 10 April 2020 20:23 (one year ago) link

(Sturgill Insta link is worth a click for the picture)

Then Isbell in the NYTimes:

A few years ago, my wife, Amanda Shires, was touring in Scandinavia with John Prine, and when they arrived in Sweden she saw him write “songwriter” on his customs form as his occupation. “When did you decide that it was OK to write ‘songwriter’ on these forms?” she asked him. “Today,” he told her. “I usually put dancer.”

John Prine was not a dancer. He was a songwriter and one of the best that ever lived, but he did love to dance. He danced around his house in Nashville with his wife, Fiona, danced in the driver’s seat of his beloved Cadillac and danced offstage every night, twirling an imaginary pocket watch. Once while performing onstage with John, I noticed him glance down past his Italian driving shoes to check the digital clock on the floor, and he saw me notice. He leaned in and whispered, “I wish we had more time.”

When John developed squamous cell cancer on his neck in 1998, his doctor told him he might never be able to sing again. John told him, “Doc, you’ve never heard me sing.” He didn’t consider himself to be much of a singer; his honest delivery had always been what mattered most. Cancer and the subsequent treatments left John with a low whisper of a singing voice, but one that, if anything, aligned even more perfectly with the hard-won wisdom of the characters he created.

John was in his early 20s when he wrote “Hello in There” from the perspective of an old man sharing an empty nest with his lonely wife. Hearing him sing the song after decades of hard living and surviving numerous illnesses brought new meaning to the lyrics, now delivered by a man who had caught up with the character he created. John always said when he grew up, he wanted to be an old person.

John was known for his ability to tell stories that related universal emotions through the lens of his gigantic imagination. He constructed what Bob Dylan called “Midwestern mind trips” from the tedium of the everyday, and he was a master at concealing the work involved. His songs sounded like they’d been easy to write, like they’d just fallen out of his mind like magic. He was praised for his dry humor and loved for his kindness and generosity. John had the courage to write plainly about the darkest aspects of the American experience in songs like “Sam Stone,” about a drug-addicted Vietnam veteran; “Paradise,” about the devastating effects of strip mining on a Kentucky town; and “The Great Compromise,” about his disillusionment with his country. Among his peers in the legendary Nashville songwriting community of the 1980s, his songs were the gold standard.

Of all the things I love about John’s songwriting, my favorite is the way he could step so completely into someone else’s life. John had the gift and the curse of great empathy. In songs like “Hello in There” and “Angel From Montgomery,” he wrote from a perspective clearly very different from his own — an old man and a middle-aged woman — but he kept the first-person point of view. He wrote those songs and the rest of his incredible debut album while a young man working as a letter carrier in Chicago. “Angel From Montgomery” opens with the line “I am an old woman/named after my mother.”

I remember hearing his 1971 recording of this song for the first time and thinking, “No, you’re not.” Then a light bulb went on, and I realized that songwriting allows you to be anybody you want to be, so long as you get the details right. John always got the details right. If the artist’s job is to hold a mirror up to society, John had the cleanest mirror of anyone I have ever known. Sometimes it seemed like he had a window, and he would climb right through.

After John faced a second bout with cancer in 2013, it seemed as though he was playing in extra innings — but he made the most of every bit of it. When Amanda — a fiddler and one of John’s favorite people — and I went into the studio to play and sing on his final album, 2018’s “The Tree of Forgiveness,” we were amazed by the beauty of the songs he’d written after more than 50 years of writing music. John was still razor sharp and he still had a story to tell. On the subsequent tour he played to the biggest audiences he’d ever drawn. He turned 72 that year.

But John’s work wasn’t just about his own music. In 1984, he and his longtime manager Al Bunetta and Dan Einstein started the independent record label Oh Boy Records. In the mid-’80s the major labels seemed like the only game in town, but Oh Boy succeeded against the odds. It released John’s albums along with records by Kris Kristofferson, Dan Reeder and Todd Snider, and it’s still finding new talent and operating with its artists’ best interests in mind.

He was a mentor to me and to my wife, who even helped him work on his songs sometimes, in between playing pranks on him while they were on tour. John saw her as a brilliant songwriter in her own right, and if John said you were a great songwriter, you knew it was true.

And there was more to John’s life than music. John and Fiona Prine had a beautiful relationship, loving and balanced and kind. Fiona understood John better than anyone else. After Amanda and I were married, Amanda started asking all the couples we knew, “What’s the secret to staying together?” John and Fiona gave the same answer, and it was the best one we’ve heard so far: Stay vulnerable. John remained vulnerable in love and in his work. He never played it safe.

When I was a baby, my 17-year-old mother would lay me on a quilt on the floor of our trailer in Alabama and play John Prine albums on the stereo. Forty years later, my daughter would call him Uncle John as he bounced her on his knee. My wife and I would sing his songs with him in old theaters or sometimes in his living room. In the summer, we’d all eat hot dogs with our feet dangling in his swimming pool. Now he’s gone and my heart is broken.

This week, John Prine danced off this stage and onto the next one, and I like to think he’s somewhere sharing a song and a cocktail with all the friends he outlived.

Josh in Chicago, Friday, 10 April 2020 20:30 (one year ago) link

Iris DeMent wrote a lovely little piece about him for Rolling Stone.

They gave it a stupid title; it's not really about his songwriting at all.

The fillyjonk who believed in pandemics (Lily Dale), Friday, 10 April 2020 21:44 (one year ago) link

Livestream tribute this afternoon

Brad C., Saturday, 11 April 2020 16:31 (one year ago) link

Just give me one extra season, so I can figure out the other four

turn the jawhatthefuckever on (One Eye Open), Sunday, 12 April 2020 16:40 (one year ago) link

Nice Rolling Stone article about his life and the last couple years of his career. It mentions in passing that he'd recorded six songs for a new album and was working on a memoir. Goddamn coronavirus.

The fillyjonk who believed in pandemics (Lily Dale), Monday, 13 April 2020 16:57 (one year ago) link

One horrifying thing the article mentions is that Prine actually developed symptoms before his wife did. Her test came back positive and his was inconclusive, so they were both quarantined at home but had to stay in separate parts of the house. She took him to the hospital (because he was exhausted and couldn't stay awake) on the first day she could leave quarantine. You have to wonder if things would have been different if he'd been admitted to the hospital early and monitored and treated before he got critical.

It's all so depressing and infuriating. If even a beloved, world-famous 73-year-old man with part of his lung missing is left to tough out COVID-19 at home alone until things get so bad he can't breathe, what hope does anyone else have of getting prompt treatment?

The fillyjonk who believed in pandemics (Lily Dale), Monday, 13 April 2020 17:43 (one year ago) link

dang i would have loved a prine memoir

na (NA), Monday, 13 April 2020 17:47 (one year ago) link

one month passes...

Extraordinary spoken word essay from Prine’s wife played on BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’ Programme just now.

Jeff W, Thursday, 14 May 2020 08:05 (eleven months ago) link

four weeks pass...

John Prine tribute show streaming tomorrow on youtube at 7:30 eastern time.

Lily Dale, Thursday, 11 June 2020 03:55 (eleven months ago) link

His last song:

Greetings from CHAZbury Park (Lily Dale), Tuesday, 16 June 2020 06:23 (ten months ago) link

ten months pass...

ACL is rerunning his last proper appearance on the show from '18 this week, and it'll be up on their site for a few weeks presumably before hitting the vault.

blue whales on ambient (C. Grisso/McCain), Sunday, 2 May 2021 04:51 (one week ago) link

Yeah, just now saw the end of that: he and band are very strong on "Lake Marie."

dow, Sunday, 2 May 2021 04:56 (one week ago) link

Sssizzlin’, even.

Cow_Art, Sunday, 2 May 2021 05:20 (one week ago) link

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