Terms like “national treasure” and “living legend” are too often bandied about but when referencing John Prine they are, just like a countless number of his songs, right on target.
Prine can sneak up on you, the guy seems harmless enough and his wit can often side track you before he punches you square in the gut with a turn of phrase that only he can deliver. As it goes with the greats, there’s nothing like John Prine or his body of work.
Prine turns 68 today and in celebration we’re sharing 5 hand-picked live videos that are just a brief sampler of how awesome the kid from Maywood, Illinois was and continues to be.
In this one, Prine gives a go at one of his most recognizable tunes outside of his childhood home in the fantastic “John Prine Live on Soundstage 1980” video. There’s a long intro but it’s all enjoyable and this just had to be the version of this song that had to be included:
When I die let my ashes float down the Green River
Let my soul roll on up to the Rochester dam
I’ll be halfway to Heaven with Paradise waitin’
Just five miles away from wherever I am.
Marty Stuart quietly has been putting out the very best live country music on TV with his show on RFD-TV. Stuart politely asks Prine to play “Souvenirs” and he obliges with a version that is as good as any you will ever hear:
Broken hearts and dirty windows
Make life difficult to see
That’s why last night and this mornin’
Always look the same to me
In Spite of Ourselves:
This is a perfect example of how Prine will pull you in laughing and then leave you shaking your head when you later recall the terrific lyrics he’s put in your ear. It’s one he penned for Billy Bob Thornton’s film Daddy & Them – in which he appears.
John picked out another personal favorite, Iris Dement, to duet on this one:
He ain’t got laid in a month of Sundays
I caught him once and he was sniffin’ my undies
He ain’t too sharp but he gets things done
Drinks his beer like it’s oxygen
Speed of the Sound of Loneliness:
Hell, even the title of this one is pure Prine! He’s joked that everybody gets lonesome but that this song is about how some of us get there a lot faster than others. John’s guitar work stands out in another great clip from Mary Stuart’s show.
You come home late and you come home early
You come on big when you’re feeling small
You come home straight and you come home curly
Sometimes you don’t come home at all
A friend of mine turned me on to this and I still proclaim that it’s “the best song I had never heard.” It’s my personal Prine favorite and none other than Bob Dylan agreed when he said, “Nobody but Prine could write like that. If I had to pick one song of his, it might be ‘Lake Marie.'”
You know what blood looks like in black and white?
Shadows, shadows that’s exactly what it looks like
All the love we shared between her and me was slammed
Slammed up against the banks of Old Lake Marie
Happy birthday to John Prine, a true living legend and national treasure…