July 14, 2020

Winnipeg
14° C, Clear

Full Forecast

Close this

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Prime Prine

Celebrate the late singer-songwriter with 10 tracks from his vast catalogue

Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP, File</p><p>John Prine performs at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn. Prine died Tuesday from complications of the coronavirus. He was 73.</p></p>

Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP, File

John Prine performs at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn. Prine died Tuesday from complications of the coronavirus. He was 73.

John Prine would have written a great song about COVID-19.

Over the course of his 50-year career, he proved could write about anything. Sad or happy, pointed or playful. Prine has a song filled with similies he came up while helping his mother do crossword puzzles. Another mentions the sad demotion of Pluto in our solar system. He could also write about Vietnam veterans suffering from PTSD that in a single line sums up the tragic experience finer than a dozen movies.

Prine, who died Tuesday night in Nashville from complications caused by COVID-19, performed in Winnipeg several times, including twice at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. A third date was set for the 2020 edition, but the anticipation of seeing the 73-year-old and hear him sing his favourites again has been supplanted by sadness, fond remembrances of concerts past and yet another heartwarming trip through Prine’s vast catalogue of songs.

Here are 10 worth listening to, or if you’re one of Prine’s fans, listen to once again. For one last look, check out one of his final TV appearances, the Oct. 13, 2018, edition of PBS’s Austin City Limits.

Sam Stone (1971) — Has anyone had a more powerful line to launch a recording career? "There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes."

 


 

Angel From Montgomery (1971) — The first line, "I am an old woman," worked when Bonnie Raitt had a hit with this one, but Prine wrote and sang it first, incongruously, using the same opening words. It’s what he did best — telling someone else’s story and making it his own.

 


 

Crazy as a Loon (2005) — Prine offers a warning for those looking to make their mark in the big city. Los Angeles, Nashville and New York each get a verse and all will do their worst to make you dash to the lakeshore.

 


 

It’s a Big Old Goofy World (1991) — Plenty of classic Prine wit in this mash-up of similes and clichés. "You oughta see his wife / she’s a cute little dish / she smokes like a chimney / and drinks like a fish."

 


 

Knockin’ on Your Screen Door (2018) — This nostalgic tune about better times fits our present predicament. "I ain’t got nobody hangin’ ’round my doorstep / Ain’t got no loose change just a-hangin’ ’round my jeans."

 


 

Christmas in Prison (1973) — The Christmas song not likely to be played during the holidays. "It was Christmas in prison and the food was real good / We had turkey and pistols carved out of wood."

 


 

Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow) (1978) — Prine was ahead of his time, creating his own recording company, Oh Boy Records, in 1978. The tune, the title track to that first record on his own warns against anger and how it’s a waste of energy.

 


 

Down by the Side of the Road (1979) — The album Pink Cadillac was Prine’s departure into rock and is an outlier compared to the rest of his folk records. The down-on-her-luck tale still works among the electric guitars and backup singers, though.

 


 

Paradise (1971) — Mentioning only three songs from Prine’s fantastic debut record is a shame, because there’s a career of songs on this record alone. This one became a sing-a-long at concerts; it immortalizes the lost beauty of Muhlenberg County, Ky., and how "Mr. Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away."

 


 

When I Get to Heaven (2018) — This is the final song from his excellent last album, The Tree of Forgiveness. Enjoy this epitaph with a vodka and ginger ale and imagine John Prine meeting God in the afterlife.

 

alan.small@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter:@AlanDSmall

Alan Small

Alan Small
Arts and Life Editor

Alan Small was named the editor of the Free Press Arts and Life section in January 2013 after almost 15 years at the paper in a variety of editing roles.

Read full biography

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

The Free Press will close this commenting platform at noon on July 14.

We want to thank those who have shared their views over the years as part of this reader engagement initiative.

In the coming weeks, the Free Press will announce new opportunities for readers to share their thoughts and to engage with our staff and each other.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us