Inside the Life of John Prine, the Mark Twain of American Songwriting

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In our 2017 feature, we looked at how John Prine took the folk scene by storm, wowed his hero Bob Dylan and inspired today’s country stars

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Today, Prine is giving his own version of a “Homes of the Stars” tour. “There’s Waylon’s old place,” Prine says, gesturing at a big Victorian brick house on Music Row. “Used to be outlaw central for a while.” He points out the house that once belonged to Cowboy Jack Clement, the former Sun Records house engineer who wrote several rock & roll classics, including Johnny Cash’s “Ballad of a Teenage Queen.” Cowboy, as Prine calls him, is the reason Prine came to Nashville.

Prine’s office feels like a clubhouse: There’s a pool table, black-and-white family photos, a pinball machine and Christmas lights all over. Prine loves Christmas; back when he was single, he kept a tree in his house year-round. It’s one in a long series of Prine’s endearingly eccentric qualities. He’ll also pack at least four bags of luggage for his weekend tours – everything from framed family photos to Heinz ketchup tocomics when I was in my thirties, and then I started subscribing to them.

Though the Prine family grew up in Maywood, Bill Prine drilled into the kids that they were also from somewhere else: Paradise, Kentucky, a small coal-mining town where Bill grew up before moving north to find work. “One time I went to school and they asked us all to find out where our roots were,” Prine says. “It’s goin’ around the class, and the kids were going, ‘I’m Swedish-German’ or ‘I’m English-Irish.’ They got to me and I said, ‘Pure Kentuckian.

When Prine played “Sam Stone” at his first-ever performance, an open-mic night at Chicago’s Fifth Peg in 1969, he was greeted with icy silence. The “Jesus” line made many audiences angry. “They’d start to have an argument with me when I was onstage,” says Prine. (Johnny Cash had Prine rewrite the “Jesus” line when he covered “Sam Stone” in the Eighties, to “Daddy must have hurt a lot back then, I suppose.

Though his record sales slowed down, Prine’s writing grew more adventurous and profound. “Jesus the Missing Years” theorizes what Christ might have done during the 18 years of his life unaccounted for in the Bible, while “Sabu Visits the Twin Cities Alone” uses the sad story of Sabu Dastagir – the Indian actor from 1937’s– as a meditation on loneliness. “Who writes songs like that?” Mellencamp asked onstage at Prine’s PEN Award ceremony. “Two people come to mind: God and.

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An old man sleeps with his conscience at night Young kids sleep with their dreams While the mentally ill sit perfectly still And live through life's in-betweens

What a great, great article about John Prine. I was thinking of TheBonnieRaitt when I read it and how I hope it will give her a small slice of joy to read it. It captures his spirit on the page. RIPJohnPrine

Rest in peace Legend 😢😰 God loves u more J.Prine reston

bleekerstreet63 I have sit for the last three hours reminiscing with YouTube. Music the way it was supposed to be made.

I am very sorry to hear the news. Wishing his family strength and comfort.

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