America, we have lost a true legend and treasure. I was so sad to hear about the passing of John Prine, whose music I have enjoyed over the years. When hearing the news that he had contracted COVID-19, I was among many people wishing that he could beat this.
Originally from Maywood, Illinois, John Prine learned to play guitar at age 14. He got his start in classes at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. Not many know this, but John Prine was an army veteran in Germany in the year of 1966. After serving in the army, he moved to Chicago in the late 1960s and worked for the US Postal Service while writing songs as a hobby. The rest is history. Roger Ebert, the famous film critic, had this to say about the late songwriter legend in his 1970 Chicago Sun-Times article. “He sings rather quietly, and his guitar work is good, but he doesn’t show off. He starts slow. But after a song or two, even the drunks in the room begin to listen to his lyrics. And then he has you.”
Here are my top 3 songs by the late legend:
That’s the Way the World Goes Round
I remember hearing this song in the early 90s at the age of 8 and falling in love with his music. The simplicity and bare emotion of this song stuck with me at a young age. The flute harmony and the shuffling beat adds a nice touch. I also remember thinking that the lyrics “Naked as the eyes of a clown” as being the funniest thing an 8-year-old could hear at the time.
Angel From Montgomery
This song comes from his self titled record in 1971 and is one of my favorites. As a musician/keyboardist, I love the groovy and straightforward intro from the Hammond organ in the intro that fits so well with the piano, guitar, and John’s raspy voice. This song is a classic that has aged well over the years.
The song “Dear Abby” was another childhood favorite of mine. I loved his simple storytelling and tongue in cheek lyrics “My feet are too long/My hair’s falling out, and my rights are all wrong/My friends they all tell me that I’ve no friends at all.” This classic from the 1973 album Sweet Revengewas a favorite of mine as I was figuring out my awkward teenage years and the advice in the lyrics “So listen up buster, and listen up good/Stop wishing for bad luck and knocking on wood” would-be sage, wise advice my late grandmother would have given me.
As I was reading through people’s memories on Twitter of John Prine, I came across Hanif Abdurraquib, editor of GENMag, who, in my opinion, had the best response to John Prine’s passing.
While I was in my home studio last night, I raised a glass of Evan Williams to Mr. Prine and recorded a short video of my playing my favorite song of his on the piano. You can watch it here.
Thanks for the memories, John.
What are some of your favorite John Prine songs? I would love to hear them in the comments below.