Monday, November 21, 2016

An American Treasure

Those who know me well know I have an eclectic taste in music and would not be surprised that I love listening to John Prine but the real reason I love his music is my Dad. Some of my most cherished memories as a kid are of my parents putting on a John Prine records on a rainy Sunday and watching them dance in the living room. They were always so happy dancing and listening to John Prine.

If dreams were lightening and thunder were desire,
This old house would have burnt down a long time ago.

As a teen and driving an open tractor with no radio for long hours during the summer months to cultivate crops, rake hay or whatever needed attention, I would often sing to myself. One of the songs in my rotation was Prine's "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore."

Well I got my window shield so full of flags I couldn't see.I ran my car upside a curb, right into a tree.By the time they got the doctor there, I was already dead.And I'll never understand why the man, standing in the Pearly Gates said,
"But your flag decal won't get you, into heaven anymore."

Like much of John Prine's work, there isn't a lot of heavy meaning in his lyrics but his lyrics are simple and masterfully written. Over the years I would buy my Dad some of his albums as they came out and he would always enjoy them. However, I still really loved the memories Prine evoked in me and not Prine himself until I was recently out of college. I bought some tickets to go see Prine with my parents who due to field work, couldn't make it. I still went and felt really out of place since I was the youngest one in the room by a couple decades. But I really enjoyed the experience and probably more importantly, I awakened to Prine's talent and really dug his music. Song's like "Hello In There" just moved me in ways that music at the time (and to this day) don't.

So if you are walking down the street sometime
And spot some hallow ancient eyes,
Please don't just pass 'em by and stare
As if you didn't care, say, "Hello in there, hello."

A handful of years would go by and I had another chance to see him in concert at a much smaller venue. I bought his anthology album and grabbed my copy and went to see him in concert. Afterwards, I sat in my seat until the ushers told me I had to leave. I told them I would really like to meet John Prine and they pointed me to a hallway on stage left and told me to go to the end of the hall and wait at the door. Someone would let me in. Someone did about twenty minutes later and I got to enter into Prine's offstage room and speak to him for a few minutes. He graciously signed my copy of his Anthology album along with the other which I had him sign for my Dad. We both treasure our copies.

When I woke up this morning, things were lookin' bad.
Seem like total silence, was the only friend I had.
A bowl of oatmeal tried to stare me down... and won.
It was twelve o'clock before I realized I was havin'... no fun.
Ah but fortunately, I have the key, to escape reality,
And you may see me tonight, with an illegal smile.
It don't cost very much but it lasts a long while.
Won't you please tell the man, I didn't kill anyone,
No I was just trying to have me some fun.

 A couple weeks ago, the stars aligned and John Prine was back in our area, the field work was done and my Mom was back home. I bought tickets and took my wife and parents to see John Prine in concert. Prine has suffered two bouts with cancer and his voice was a bit gravelly due to an operation and subsequent radiation but it didn't matter. I was also about the youngest in the auditorium by about two decades but it didn't matter either. Sitting next to me were my parents and this being their second concert they have ever attended, they were extremely happy. Once again, John Prine has etched happy memories into my brain. I'm not sure we'll get to see him again and that is a shame because I really feel that he is an American Treasure.

When I die let my ashes flow 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.


Kelly said...

John Prine is a name I recognize, but none of his music comes to mind. While our peers and the music of our own generation always influence us, I know that which we grow up hearing (as in our parents or older siblings) also has a great impact (whether for good or bad!). Thanks to the "easy listening" radio station my dad owned, I love music of the 40s-60s and having siblings stretch up to 14 years my senior, I certainly grew to love the folk/rock/pop they listened to.

I think it's wonderful that you were able to treat your parents to the John Prine concert - a memory you'll treasure for years to come.

Ed said...

Kelly - John Prine has never gotten much airplay that I have heard. However, I have heard a few of his songs covered by other groups now and then. If you are looking for one album to sample his works, I would highly recommend starting with his "Great Days: Anthology" album. If you want to sample him for free, just go to Youtube and search for John Prine. There are lots of videos out there.

ErinFromIowa said...

My cold heart melted just wee a bit reading this post.

Ed said...

Erin - A Prine fan are we?

Pumpkin Delight (Kimberly) said...

I'm not familiar with this artist, but the name rang a bell and I think that's because he was on Colbert a few months ago. It sounds like it was a nice time and very special to be at the show with your parents. I listened to a couple of the songs, and the lyrics are rather humorous as well! :)

Ed said...

Pumpkin Delight - I saw him on a late show a month or so ago too, perhaps it was the same one. I recorded it since I normally don't watch them. He voice was real rough on that show like he was recovering from a cold. There is lots of John Prine stuff online for sure and I find myself listening to them from time to time.