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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Folk/Bluegrass/County Singer and Songwriter, John Prine, Dead at 73 (Coronavirus Complications)

Unless you're a true music lover, you may not know of John Prine;  however, you most likely do know know someone who performed or rerecorded one of his songs.

He was America's only national treasure that was simultaneously (and inexplicably) our best kept secret :(

His appeal isn't just that his music is soulful, but hilarious - he had the ability to make you think, make you laugh, and make you cry - all in the same song. 



Combine Johnny Cash with slightly less edge, Bob Dylan with a sense of humor, a slightly less silly Ray Stevens or Tim Wilson, and Tom Petty with less ... weed? lol

He beat cancer twice, only to have COVID-19 do him in :(

I've chosen 4 from his expansive repertoire, which wasn't an easy thing to do, starting with sad and soulful to absurd. 

They may not be his best, but they either were my personal sentimental favorites or just made me laugh - starting out with the soulful and serious to the absurd ...

Here's my favorite, with one of my favorite singers of all time.

"Angel From Montgomery" - Bonnie Raitt and John Prine




(I've often said if I could ask God to reincarnate me as one singer/musician, it would be Bonnie Raitt's particular brand of blues voice/guitar.  In fact, I can get pretty close voice wise, particularly of Bonnie's song, "All At Once," voice wise, but I'm no guitarist lol.) 

A close second favorite would be "Paradise" - a song written about the strip-mining of Kentucky, in old bluegrass-country style (where his father, Bill Prine, was from).  

In fact, up until his death, he gave a large percentage of his profits to coal miners organizations in Kentucky. 









Though John Prine was influenced by Johnny Cash, Johnny Cash returned the favor, by being one of John's biggest fans, re-recording this song ...




In fact - true story - once upon a time, an 11-year-old me was lucky enough to hear Johnny sing this song,  live and in person,  while sitting in an old  beat-up Ford pickup truck, waiting for the lighting to be just right and the camera to start rolling - and he ended up recording it later for soundtrack of the film itself  :)

What a great day :)

That's a whole other story, but just a quick clarification of my meaning: Back in 1980, we didn't quite have the technology yet to enhance film in after-production, at least not as as well as we can now.  Thus it took hours of sitting and waiting to get just the lighting right and shot setup they wanted.  

Thus, actors often used (and still use) "stand-ins" - who look similar and around the same height and build -  to wait out that time for them, so the stars can go off and do other things. 

Well, God knows, I was a nobody, so I didn't have a stand-in for my scenes lol.  

However - true story - though  Johnny and Ben did have stand-ins, they rarely used them - they just sat and waited it out themselves, like nobodies, right along with me  - more reasons to love Johnny Cash, yes?  :) 

Needless to say, if you could pick one day your life and play it over and over, other than my daughter's birth and my wedding day, it would be that day ...

... just me, actor Ben Marley, and Johnny Cash, sitting in an old beat-up Ford pickup for hours, waiting for the lighting set-up and the cameras to start rolling - singing along together (Hank Williams Sr. and Genesis, if I recall correctly?) -  or just sitting back with my eyes closed, listening to Johnny Cash sing a capella or tell us jokes and stories to keep us entertained while we waited :)

If I close my eyes, I can still hear Johnny singing this song now -  his low, deep soulful voice, filling our truck cabin ...


"When I was a child my family would travel
Down to Western Kentucky where my parents were born
And there's a backwards old town that's often remembered
So many times that my memories are worn

And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking
Mister Peabody's coal train done hauled it away

Well, sometimes we'd travel right down the Green River
To the abandoned old prison down by Adrian's Hill
Where the air smelled like snakes and we'd shoot with our pistols
But empty pop bottles was all we would kill

So daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking
Mister Peabody's coal train done hauled it away

Then the coal company came with the world's largest shovel
And they stripped all the timber and tortured the land
Well, they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken
Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man

So daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking
Mister Peabody's coal train done hauled it away

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"


So daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking
Mister Peabody's coal train done hauled it away"



"That's The Way That The World Goes Round" - Performed here with late-night-show comedian (another of my favorite people) and superfan, Stephen Colbert ...







"Your Flag Decal Won't You Get You Into Heaven Anymore"  (Not his best, but still makes me laugh): 







"When I Get to Heaven" 








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

Then as God as my witness, I'm gettin' back into showbusiness
I'm gonna open up a nightclub called "The Tree of Forgiveness"
And forgive everybody ever done me any harm
Well, I might even invite a few choice critics, those syph'litic parasitics
Buy 'em a pint and smother 'em with my charm

'Cause 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
Yeah this old man is goin' to town

Yeah when I get to heaven, I'm gonna take that wristwatch off my arm
What are you gonna do with time after you've bought the farm?
And then I'm gonna go find my mom and dad, and good old brother Doug
Well I bet him and cousin Jackie are still cuttin' up a rug

I wanna see all my mama's sisters, 'cause that's where all the love starts
I miss 'em all like crazy, bless their little hearts
And I always will remember these words my daddy said
He said, "Buddy, when you're dead, you're a dead pecker-head"
I hope to prove him wrong, that is, when I get to heaven

'Cause I'm gonna have 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
Yeah this old man is goin' to town
Yeah this old man is goin' to town





LOL, I hope you AND Johnny are doing every bit of that and more, right now, buddy - thank you :)



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