All that is John Prine

Apr 10, 2020

When I heard that John had contracted Covid-19, I was worried. But my mind and heart kept telling me he would make it. The days went by and there was no news until last night. I was looking at Instagram and saw a post from Jason Isbell, and I knew John was gone from us and on to the next. We have lost a literary and musical giant. I hardly know where to start, but I guess the beginning is best. I bought John's first album, simply called John Prine in 1972 and that was the beginning. That first album had "Illegal Smile," "Hello In There," "Sam Stone," "Paradise," "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore," "Far From Me," and "Angel From Montgomery" — all on that first album! It's beyond belief that there were 18 studio albums yet to come with that many great songs on each one. He was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2020 Grammy Awards. John's songs are little movies, they bring you right into the frame in a way that no other songwriter does, not even Dylan. There was only one Shakespeare and there will only be one John Prine. Here are the lyrics to one of my favorite songs, "Far From Me,"' so poignant, so sad and so real. "Well, a question ain't really a question / If you know the answer too."

As the cafe was closing
On a warm summer night
And Cathy was cleaning the spoons
The radio played the hit parade
And I hummed a long with the tune
She asked me to change the station
Said the song just drove her insane
But it weren't just the music playing
It was me that she was trying to blame
And the sky is black and still now
On the hill where the angels sing
Ain't it funny how an old broken bottle
Looks just like a diamond ring
But it's far, far from me
Well, I leaned on my left leg
In the parking lot dirt
And Cathy was closing the lights
A June bug flew from the warmth he once knew
And I wished for once I weren't right
Why we used to laugh together
And we'd dance to any old song
Well, ya know, she still laughs with me
But she waits just a second to long
And the sky is black and still now
On the hill where the angels sing
Ain't it funny how an old broken bottle
Looks just like a diamond ring
But it's far, far from me
Well, I started the engine
And I gave it some gas
And Cathy was closing her purse
Well, we hadn't gone far in my beat old car
And I was prepared for the worst.
"Will you still see me tomorrow?"
"No, I got too much to do"
Well, a question ain't really a question
If you know the answer too
And the sky is black and still now
On the hill where the angels sing
Ain't it funny how an old broken bottle
Looks just like a diamond ring
But it's far, far from me

John Prine performs during the 2008 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival at the New Orleans Fairgrounds Racetrack in New Orleans, Friday, May 2, 2008.
Credit Dave Martin / AP Photo