Archive for April, 2020

We lost John Prine

Posted in History, Music, Uncategorized with tags , on April 8, 2020 by macmystery
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John Prine

There is absolutely nothing I can write in this space that will do my subject justice.

The world lost John Prine tonight.

I don’t have a plan for this, I’m just going to get a lot of thoughts down. I am heartbroken.

At this point, he had been ill two weeks or so. He and his wife, Fiona, had caught the coronavirus. She recovered. John, a two-time cancer survivor, did not.

I can’t tell you exactly when I discovered his music. I would tell you it was sometime during my teen years in the late 1980s. I was aware and a fan of Bonnie Raitt. And of course to be a fan of Bonnie Raitt means you had to have heard Angel From Montgomery, one of John’s best songs.

Grandpa Was A Carpenter made an appearance on the second Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Will The Circle Be Unbroken album. I had seen him on Austin City Limits. My hero, Bruce Springsteen, had appeared on Jesus, The Missing Years.

I’m not sure which of those happened first. It doesn’t matter. Once you realized how good he was, you were hooked. There aren’t many songwriters in this world that Kris Kristofferson and Bob Dylan revere. John Prine was one.

My current favorite, Jason Isbell, revered Prine.

“Well a question ain’t really a question if you know the answer, too.”

I was lucky enough to see Prine twice. The first time at the Peace Center in Greenville. Old Crow Medicine Show opened. My ex-wife and I saw him with my friends Chris and Bridget. He was at his best. He sang all the songs I really loved. You can see your favorite artists a handful of times and never be lucky enough to see a show like we saw that night.

The second time, Jason Isbell opened for him in Savannah. My friend Justin had seen Isbell but not Prine. I had seen Prine, of course, but it was my first Isbell show. I was really late getting off work, then we were sidetracked between Bluffton and Savannah by a huge wreck. By the time we got there, I got to hear four Jason Isbell songs. But Jjustin got to hear the whole Prine set. And I’m certain he’s thankful.

His songs were filled with honesty and a dry wit and somehow, they always seemed familiar. And generous.

I wrote just the other day that John’s 1971 self-titled debut was the greatest debut album ever. Fight me. The track listing reads like a greatest hits package. But it wasn’t. Just a perfect record.

Sam Stone. Spanish Pipedream. Illegal Smile. Hello In There. Paradise. Donald and Lydia. Angel From Montgomery. Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore.

Damn.

Over the next couple of days, we’re going to hear a lot of artists, a lot of writers, a lot of fans talk about how great John Prine was. I’m glad that he got to hear a little of this toward the end of his life.

While Prine was content to make great music in the shadows of the big record labels, it’s only right that at thend he got the Grammys and the Americana awards he deserved. And it’s good there were artists like Isbell, who revered John and sought him out and made him their friend. I hope there was something satisfying in it for John.

I am devastated. John Prine was an artist. Not a family member or a friend. But on so many lonely nights or long car trips, he was one of the people there talking to me. And I will forever cherish what he had to say.

The world is a slightly less good place than it was a few hours ago.