John Prine: A Retrospective

April 14, 2020 | By

John Prine Made It OK to Stay a Kid - Rolling Stone

Hello all, this is DJ Straight Edge here. As any listeners to my show The Road Trip may already know, I keep my musical horizons very wide. I know very well that many people who claim to be into an array of different kinds of music, then add on the caveat of their inability to enjoy country music. I am no such person… at least for a good long while now; for I do admit I was a bit of a pessimist about the country until several years ago when I discovered the music of John Prine.

Prine began writing and recording music in the late sixties, after a few so-so stints as a soldier in Nam, and a mailman. Having film critic Roger Ebert to thank for his rise from local pub sensation to country-folk icon; Prine quickly became known and beloved by many who gravitated toward his charmingly self-deprecating, oftentimes satirical, yet always relatable songwriting that still sounds as fresh today as when he initially laid it on wax.

I’ll admit I have no grand story of discovering Prine’s music in a time of hardship or having it passed down to me by relatives who were fans. Instead, I happened across his debut record after seeing it marketed as a folk album. Though the cover I saw was a smiling man sitting on a few bales of hay, I suspected it was just another tongue-in-cheek lost singer/songwriter gem of the seventies.

After giving the first track a listen, even my then-aversion to country music couldn’t stop me from digging Prine’s sharp sense of humor and relatability. The song, titled ‘Illegal Smile’, is a plea for others to reserve judgement for him when he smokes pot because it’s the only thing that can make him smile anymore. With lyrics about winning a staring contest with a bowl of oatmeal and realizing all of his friends are insurance salesmen, I knew that I would have been doing myself a disservice by not listening to the rest of the record; and subsequently, his entire discography.

Last Tuesday, April 7th, it was announced that Prine passed away due to complications of COVID-19. His passing has garnered grievances across the globe, with musicians from Roger Waters to Phoebe Bridgers performing tributes via livestream. I thought it was only right to take a moment to give my own thanks to the jester of country-folk, who was ironically the one who made me take the genre seriously. I’ll be sure to stop by The Tree of Forgiveness and thank him in person someday.

I’ve also rounded up a few of my favorite John Prine tracks that I think everyone ought to hear. Links Below.

Listen to ‘John Prine: A Retrospective Playlist’ on Spotify and Apple Music

-DJ Straight Edge


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