John Prine 1971

John Prine, born and raised in Maywood, Illinois from West Virginia transplants, is an artist that needs a bit of an introduction. There’s something about his music, and his self-titled 1971 album specifically, that moves me in ways no other artist can. At times, it feels like the music an old soul would make to relate a story to a young one that needs it, and at times, it feels like the music of an America that wants to exist but can’t because of wrongs that it needs to correct first. The two songs I selected today “Quiet Man” the driver, and “Donald and Lydia” the reflector, may not sound like much at first glance but when you stop and truly listen man does his music just shake you to your core. 

The Maywood that Jon was born and raised in, the one I’ve traveled around for damn near 10 years of my life when I lived in its bordering suburb Broadview, is the place that informed his lyrics the most. The thing about Maywood is that its one of those suburbs that has experienced massive poverty and demographic changes as the white population moved even further away from the city. John grew up near the beginning of it all and realized the effect suburban sprawl, unemployment, loss of education, and writ large the decay of the American dream, was having on the soul of America. Those were the experiences he was trying to process and present through all the tools the best storytellers have. For once, I’m at a loss for words trying to describe how important this man’s music is.

John Prine album cover.
The other day I was reading this review of a homecoming concert he gave to some kids from Proviso East, the highschool he went to as a young man. John would give them probably the most personal glimpse of the local places and experiences that shaped the lyrics of some of his most famous songs. Personally, I was just transfixed reading about the locations he mentioned, places I’ve been through, and the way he was able to relate to the kids and win them over with what were then decades old songs. That could have also described the first time I heard his album as well. There’s just something about the way he tells those stories. This is what Dylan thought of him from a Huffington Post interview:

Bruce Springsteen, John Prine, and Bob Dylan circa Desire


How about John Prine?

BD: Prine’s stuff is pure Proustian existentialism. Midwestern mindtrips to the nth degree. And he writes beautiful songs. I remember when Kris Kristofferson first brought him on the scene. All that stuff about “Sam Stone” the soldier junky daddy and “Donald and Lydia,” where people make love from ten miles away. Nobody but Prine could write like that. If I had to pick one song of his, it might be “Lake Marie.” I don’t remember what album that’s on. 
And Roger Waters from Pink Floyd:
“I don’t really listen to Radiohead. I listened to the albums and they just didn’t move me in the way, say, John Prine does. His is just extraordinarily eloquent music–and he lives on that plane with Neil Young and Lennon.”
There’s something to be said about an artist that can transcend and inspire people in various walks of life and shades of spirit. I thought I had the words to do so, but I’d rather just let them speak for the man today. Man, I love those slide guitars at the end of “Donald and Lydia”. I still can’t believe he was in his early 20s when he wrote this…
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Listen to Quiet Man at Grooveshark.

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Listen to Donald and Lydia at Grooveshark.

Bonus track, here’s John playing “How Lucky Can a Man Get” in the backyard of his old home in Maywood around 1st and Washington Ave:

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P.S. Quote of the day: “Jesus was a good guy, he didn’t need this shit.”
― John Prine