Nelson’s John Prine Memories
I've heard it said, the bad part about growing up is that your idols/heroes have to grow older as you do. That point was driven home for me when I saw the news that John Prine had passed away (April 7th) at 73 from complications of COVID-19. There's been some great social media posts from country artists paying tribute to Prine since the news broke.
It got me thinking about my John Prine memories. My dad turned me onto Prine music when I was in my teens. I remember hearing all those great songs that were nothing like the music I had ever listened to before on Great Days: The John Prine Anthology. It was a great album to be my introduction to his music since it was a two-disc set with a ton of classic songs. It was the start of me being a John Prine fan for the rest of my days.
As I got older my appreciation for his music grew deeper. After moving out on my own, my dad came to pay me a visit when I was in my early 20's. It was sheer luck that John Prine happened to be playing in the small college town I was living in while my dad was there. We bought tickets and attended a fantastic show. A funny story is that my dad's trip included him driving from Nebraska to Washington when he came to visit. I was looking through the CD's that he had listened to on his journey and I pulled one out from an artist I had never heard of. His name was Todd Snider. I asked my dad "who's this guy?" and I ended up listening to the album for two days straight. My dad didn't really know much about Todd Snider either, he just happened to stumble upon the CD somewhere in his travels. Well, who do you think was the opening act for John Prine that night? Yep, coming out to kick things off was a guy named Todd Snider. After returning home I googled him and learned he was a good friend of John Prine as well as an artist on the roster of the record label that Prine owned. What a crazy world. My dad and I would recall that crazy bit of irony every time that concert would work its way into conversation.
Fast forward a few years and when my wife and I got married we used a John Prine song in our wedding. After tricking her into actually saying "I do" we walked away as newlyweds with In Spite of Ourselves playing for our guests to smile along to.
I was lucky enough to see John Prine in concert three times. His health problems ended up altering his appearance and sound over the years. But that didn't take anything away from the shows. The catalog of amazing songs and masterful lyrics were never delivered in a fancy show full of production elements. Usually it was just a stripped down, mostly acoustic show, that would have the crowd hanging onto every word.
I did some digging through my collection from over the years and found two of the three tickets from the shows I attended. Having lost my dad last year, I wish I would have held onto the one from the show we attended together, but maybe it's fitting that all that's left are the memories. As John would say, "that's the way that the world goes round."