“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”.
– Far from Me
One of the first songs I taught to my daughter was a John Prine tune. It was the Bonnie Raitt version and honestly, I didn’t really know Bonnie didn’t write it at the time. Bonnie made the song her own as most great musicians can do. When I asked my band to back my daughter up on this song the guys simply said “John Prine, hell yes”. That was the day I found out a trove of songs I had been playing for years with these guys were written by this man.
“There’s flies in the kitchen, I can hear ’em there buzzing
And I ain’t done nothing since I woke up today.
How the hell can a person go to work in the morning
And come home in the evening and have nothing to say.”
– Angel from Montgomery
I started buying his albums and paying attention to his words. It takes a special gift to take simple phrases, simple chord progressions, and just continue to somehow put them together in unexpected ways… with a smile, and a wink.
“I used to sleep at the foot of Old Glory
And awake in the dawn’s early light
But much to my surprise
When I opened my eyes
I was a victim of the great compromise”
– The Great Compromise
I would like to think he would have had a final great line as he lay in his bed during this time of uncertainty. And one can’t help to wonder what great lines passed with him as that great mind slowly went to sleep. I’m sure he would have thought of something pithy for us because that’s what he did; the most complexing things need the salve of a simple line.
“When I die let my ashes float down the Green River
Let my soul roll on up to the Rochester dam
I’ll be halfway to Heaven with Paradise waitin’
Just five miles away from wherever I am.”
I’m sitting here on the day that he died, hoping we can look back and smile… but it’s hard right now. I’m listening to song after song after song. That buttery voice where you can hear the slight smile.
“Dear Abby, Dear Abby…
Well I never thought
That me and my girlfriend would ever get caught
We were sitting in the back seat just shooting the breeze
With her hair up in curlers and her pants to her knees
Signed Just Married”
– Dear Abby
Every life is a precious gift… at least for someone… (wink). And it really is a shame we should loose such a great voice in such a cacophony of fear and confusion. Especially someone who had the gift to explain just what frightens us, in such eloquent ways…
“There’s a rainbow of babies
Draped over the graveyard
Where all the dead sailors
Wait for their brides
And the cold bitter snow
Has strangled each grassblade
Where the salt from their tears
Washed out with the tide”
– He Was In Heaven Before He Died
One of the greatest song writers in this world died today.
One of our greatest poets… (wink)
“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?
And then I’m gonna get a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale
Yeah, I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long
I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl
‘Cause this old man is goin’ to town”
– When I get to Heaven
Cheers Mr Prine… and thank you. I will wait as long as I can to join you in your heaven; but…
Keep playing so we can find you in that special place that God gave you the gift to define so well.
– Song Lyrics by John Prine