Although John Prine had been putting out albums since the 70s I had never listened to him until the past ten years or so. A bar patron I made fast friends with over music while I beertended at Loco’s in Lawrenceville during the day introduced me to Prine with the song Illegal Smile.
Illegal Smile was right up my alley. Superior word play and fun while focusing on the harmlessness of smoking a joint. If all of his songs were about weed I probably would’ve known about him sooner.
Unfortunatley for my younger self John Prine was a songwriter of the truest form which often results in mostly low key, acoustic, lyric-centric fare. This style of music is certainly not what I turned to when I truly became aware of my surroundings and Prine was somehow not in my father’s record collection (as far as I can recall) so I missed out.
Prine died on April 7th from the coronavirus but his music, and most importantly, his lyrics will be with us forever. Although not referenced as much as they may have been in pop culture of the past, his lyrics are not only timeless but immensly thoughtful, interesting and heart wrenching in their sincerity.
John Prine makes you feel for the characters in his songs, be it a family member of an old heroin addicted soldier, an old woman or yes, a pot smoking average fellow with his day in court.
The guy wrote songs in his head while he delivered mail and died an American hero at 73. If there was any justice in the world he would earn a Presidential Medal of Freedom even after death.