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April 7, 2020 by jacklovelace

Snapshots of John Prine

:He traded in his mailman uniform for a guitar in the Chicago folk scene in the 60’s. My college roommate, a Chicago boy, and I would hit the clubs.

Over the years, one of Prine’s favorite songs to sing was one of the rare one’s that wasn’t his. His good friend from those old Chicago days wrote “Souvenirs.”

Every time John sang it, and it was almost every show I saw over the years, he would finish and then with his raspy voice almost whispering very gently when it was over, “Steve Goodman.”

:John was around so long he used to sing a cute song called “Dear Abby” riffing off the famous gossip columnist. Famous? Today many wouldn’t even know the reference.

Another song that time changed was “Illegal Smile”. I never got the feeling this clever take on pot was one his favorites and he didn’t always include it. Who knew it would end up in Colorado a “Legal Smile.”

:When Mary was working in Oregon we went to Portland, the Aladdin Theater, to see him perform with a full band and some new material. He kicked ass and it was the first time I heard him rock out on what became one of his concert staples, “Lake Marie.”

What is the color of blood in the moonlight? Black screamed the crowd.

:One time in a concert in Kansas City at a theater with cramped seats, I endured the show with a redheaded woman in front of me whose hair was so long it was constantly overflowing. At one point she said “Are playing with my hair honey?” In a rare quick comeback I said “Only when it is in my lap.” Always remember her double take. John would have enjoyed the exchange from the seats.

:When my son went to film school his first project was to put together a visual montage using any song. Any song, said his instructor, except “Hello In There.” The imagery was so good and it was used so much by students, he said “no mas.” What a compliment.

:Over the years you could always count on “Hello in There” and “Sam Stone” and as time went on and Bonnie Raitt recorded it, “Angel from Montgomery”. My favorite song of his that wasn’t an automatic was “Donald and Lydia”. Achingly honest and evocative.

:My final vivid memory was when we went to see him at the Lyons Folk Fest. We left our blankets and went up near the stage on that cool Colorado night with the creek water flowing, my son carrying his son, as John sang “Hello in There” and “Sam Stone”. Three generations. “There is a hole in daddy’s arm, where all the money goes.”

:I never saw a concert where he didn’t end with “Paradise”, a family homage. “Daddy, won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County”.

John is there in well deserved peace.


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