John Prine Tribute Concert
Another classic concert in the making...
John Prine, one of the most revered singer-songwriters of his generation, died in April last year age 73. The two-time Grammy-winner was honoured earlier in 2020 year with a Lifetime Achievement Grammy, and in 2019 was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. In his humble, hilarious way, Prine was one of America’s greatest songwriters.
On Saturday afternoon we'll be presenting a special tribute concert - following the amazing specials we've put on in the past - including Bob Dylan's 75th, and Woodstock @ 50. Festival artists, including Blair Dunlop, The Henry Girls, Winter Wilson and Ali Russell, will come together to sing a few of Prine's greatest songs - and there are a fair few to choose from. They may even throw in a couple of Steve Goodman songs - a friend and collaborator of John's from the early years.
If you're not familiar with Prine's work - take some time to listen to some of his greatest songs...
"In Spite of Ourselves"
Prine and Iris DeMent trade backhanded compliments on a song full of humour. This he-said, she-said duet is a portrait of a long-term relationship as only Prine could write it: warm, richly detailed, and funny as hell.
"Angel from Montgomery" (1999)
Prine’s most widely known song is an indelible portrait of “a middle-aged woman who feels older than she is”. It became a country standard, covered most famously by Bonnie Raitt, as she performs here.
"The Frying Pan" (1972)
A man comes home and discovers his wife has run off with a traveling salesman. He cries miserably, recounts what he loved about her (“I miss the way she used to yell at me/The way she used to cuss and moan”), and full of pride, comes to the wrong conclusion: Never leave your wife at home.
"Lake Marie" (1995)
Dylan’s favourite Prine song combines three different stories — one about how two lakes on the Illinois-Wisconsin border got their names, one about a failing marriage, and one about a gruesome murder — into a classic that’s part modern folk tale, part chugging, big-chorused singalong.
In part, it’s about a buried childhood memory of thinking his brother had gotten lost at a carnival. “I thought I had come up with a pretty sophisticated melody in my head,” he said. “I was surprised to find out it had the same three chords that all my other songs have.” Prine frequently performed the song with his musical partner Steve Goodman (the definitive version is their live duet on Prine’s Great Days anthology), and for decades he dedicated the song to his late friend each time he played in.
"Sam Stone" (1971)
Prine wrote this heartbreaking tale of a heroin-addicted veteran for his first album, not long after he returned home from serving in the Army himself. “Sam Stone” immediately became one of the songwriter’s most signature tunes, filled with shattering one-liners like, “There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes/Jesus Chris died for nothin’, I suppose.”
"Hello in There" (1971)
Prine spun the notion of trying to connect across a vast divide into a uniquely empathic song that inhabited the life of an elderly couple — from the apartment they shared when they were younger, to the kids who’ve grown up and left (or, in the case of Davy, died “in the Korean War/I still don’t know what for”), and the quiet, isolated existence they now soldier through. In classic folk tradition, Prine ends by addressing the listener, asking that we reach out too: “So if you’re walking down the street sometime/And spot some hollow ancient eyes/Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare/ As if you didn’t care, say, ‘Hello in there, hello.’ ”
"Illegal Smile" (1971)
The opening track to Prine’s self-titled 1971 debut, “Illegal Smile” became an anthem for weed-smokers — despite the songwriter claiming it wasn’t really about that. Lyrics about having “the key to escape reality” and paranoid run-ins with the law might suggest otherwise, but it’s Prine’s rhythmic delivery that makes the song so inebriating.
"Spanish Pipedream" (1971
There’s a lot of advice in Prine’s tale about a soldier and a topless dancer who run off together to live the good life. For starters: blow up your TV, throw away your paper, go to the country, build you a home. It all sounds especially enticing today. It also includes the wonderful "I sat down at the table and I acted real naïve, I could see this topless lady had something up her sleeve".
Well, that should keep you going for a while, but there are loads more we could recommend: Speed of the Sound of Loneliness, Dear Abby and Yes I Guess They Oughta Name A Drink After You...to name just a few.
In 2018 Prine released his first album of new material for over a decade, Tree of Forgiveness, on which he shared his vision of the afterlife on the song, “When I Get to Heaven”:
“When I get to heaven, I'm gonna shake God's hand
Thank him for more blessings than one man can stand.
Then I'm gonna get a guitar and start a rock-n-roll band
Check into a swell hotel; ain't the afterlife grand?”