Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/further/2019/10/10/if-dreams-were-lightning
Thanks, again Abby, you seem to know when to write something wonderful when things get just too damn weird! Always liked John Prine, first song I remember of his is “Fish and whistle”, wow, brings back memories of long lost friends, again, thanks for this jewel today, very much appreciated!
John Prine, such a jewel.
Hello in There…
We had an apartment in the city
Me and Loretta liked living there
Well, it’d been years since the kids had grown
A life of their own left us alone
John and Linda live in Omaha
And Joe is somewhere on the road
We lost Davy in the Korean war
And I still don’t know what for, don’t matter anymore
Ya’ know that old trees just grow stronger
And old rivers grow wilder ev’ry day
Old people just grow lonesome
Waiting for someone to say, “Hello in there, hello”
Me and Loretta, we don’t talk much more
She sits and stares through the back door screen
And all the news just repeats itself
Like some forgotten dream that we’ve both seen
Someday I’ll go and call up Rudy
We worked together at the factory
But what could I say if asks “What’s new?”
“Nothing, what’s with you? Nothing much to do”
So if you’re walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes
Please don’t just pass 'em by and stare
As if you didn’t care, say, “Hello in there, hello”
“There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes,/ Jesus Christ died for nothin I suppose.” Couple that with Leonard Cohen’s “Dress Rehearsal Rag” and you have Bleeker St. at your feet. Fred Neil’s next door drinkin’ cold coffee and Johnnie’s in the basement mixing up some medicine and I’m on the pavement thinkin’ bout the government, doesn’t matter whatya did…we all got here some how and somehow they all made it burtally aware it wasn’t going to be pain free without tears and loss. Guy’s like Prine make us better and we never figure out how with just a line here or a line there, placed just right. Songwriters don’t come round here anymore cuz they don’t hit you with flash and shine. They still write the best songs, people like Prine and Taylor Pie, Danny O’Keefe and Shawn Phillips and Donovan…turn your radio on, turn your radio on, turn into Gawd, turn you radio on
Another wonderful song by John Prine was “Paradise” about the effects of strip mining coal in Kentucky in Muhlenberg County and what was lost due to its impacts. I have admired John Prine from the beginning when a friend played me one of his early albums with the cover showing him sitting inside his new MGB that he bought after making enough money from his musical success.
I used to play and sing “Paradise” and “Hello In There” on my guitar and they always felt very meaningful. Prine’s gift of evoking such deep reactions from such simple lyrics is extraordinary and I consider him to be one of our greatest songwriters. No less than Kris Kristofferson once said that “John Prine writes songs as if he were 200 years old.”
By that, I think he meant that the depth of his songs was based on an old soul who has shown us just how poignant and effective song lyrics can be.
John Prine is a national treasure.
The man had stories to tell and tells them still about things that matter to regular people. That is the lasting appeal of John Prine. “If dreams were thunder and lightning desire, this house woulda burned down a long time ago.” One of the most poetic lines ever written about unrequited love and the emptiness of longing.
The first song of his I remember hearing was John Denver’s cover of Paradise, probably from one of his early albums of mostly covers, Aerie. Check out this concert collaboration of Angel from Montgomery by a couple of singing angels, Bonnie Raitt and Alison Krauss:
I always loved me some John Prine, from the very first records he released, to his latter ones. I am especially fond of the records where he revisits old staples and sings duets with various peoples. The albums In Spite of Ourselves , Standard Songs for Average People and For better or Worse are all excellent revisits of old songs.
LOVE Mr. Prine! A friend and I used to play a lot of his music. My favorites have always been That’s the Way the World goes Round.
AND: Illegal Smile
John Prine’s sense of humor is a refreshing breeze of gentle social satire.
I’m a little surprised Abby Zimet didn’t mention (ahem) “Dear Abby” . . . (also the Elephant Boy is Sabu, not Abu, as in “Sabu Visits the Twin Cities Alone”).
“‘Bewildered,’ ‘Bewildered,’ you have no complaint
You are what you are, and you ain’t what you ain’t
So listen up, buster, and listen up good
Stop wishin’ for bad luck and knockin’ on wood
Signed, Dear Abby”
Sounds like conservative tough-love “personal responsibility” to me . . .
One Red Rose does it for me: Happy Birthday John.
I didn’t know about him, so thank you.
Att: Abby Zimet
I am so glad you pointed out “Abu” instead of “Sabu.” I suspect for one reason the author doesn’t know who he was. I expect a lot, I guess, from writers. The typos and grammatical errors, mistakes, misspellings, etc. really pop out at me. It seems there are no copywriters or editors anymore. I sound like a grumpy old person, but when it comes to someone I cherish as much as John Prine, I think he deserves the best.
Too bad the article (nor any of the replies) mentioned that if it hadn’t been for Steve Goodman bringing John Prine along to play for Kris Kristofferson and Wayne Newton, Prine would have still been delivering the mail.
Prine and Goodman remained good friends throughout Steve short life and the version of “Souvenirs” that features them as a duet is beyond priceless. Prine played at countless tributes for “Chicago Shorty” after Steve’s death in 1984. Prine has always remembered those early days at Earl’s at the Old Town in Chicago.
I’m glad John is still around to be a voice of folk music. His interview on CBS Sunday Morning with Anthony Mason is worth finding out on the ol’ interweb.
Thank you Abby. The fundamental truths of the lyrics of John Prine are even more precious now, in this age of falsehood, manipulation and confusion. Prine certainly belongs in the pantheon of the greatest American songwriters. The lyrics written by
those such as: Harry Chapin; Jim Croce; Bob Dylan; Woody Guthrie; Yip Harburg;
Carole King; Kris Kristofferson; John Prine; Ronnie VanZant; and Hank Williams, among
others, impart a truer sense of life and love in America, than a thousand textbooks.
Been a fan since the early 70’s.
If you don’ know Prine’s music - It’s your tremendous loss.
You are in for a real treat then