The Legendary Artist Died from Complications of COVID-19 this past April 7th. He was 73
“Please don’t bury me
Down in that cold cold ground
No, I’d druther have “em” cut me up
And pass me all around
Throw my brain in a hurricane
And the blind can have my eyes
And the deaf can take both of my ears
If they don’t mind the size.”
– From John Prine’s 1973 song, ‘Please Don’t Bury Me’
A Brief Tribute by Doug Draper at Niagara At Large, followed by a great John Prine in performance video, and some beautiful words written about the man from his friend, Arlo Guthrie
Posted April 17th, 2020 on Niagara At Large
“John’s talent and spirit was a gift to the world. We were lucky to have seen and heard him.” – Bob Dylan, in a statement he released shortly after learning of John Prine’s death this past April 7th
Dylan is right.
In or around the early 1990s, my wife Mary and I were lucky enough to see and hear John Prine on the stage at Artpark in Lewiston, New York, on a double bill with his friend and fellow singer/songwriter extraordinaire Arlo Guthrie.
One of the highlights of the evening was Arlo doing a roughly 17-minute-long version of his epic rebel hippie/anti-war song Alice’s Restaurant, which was celebrating its 25th anniversary at the time, but so many of great moments of the evening also came from the songs written and performed by John Prine, and the engaging little tales he shared in between, almost always with a twinkle in his eyes and a big, mischievous smile.
There were songs like ‘Illegal Smile’, and ‘Sam Stone’ (that one telling a story about the trials and tribulations of a returning war veteran, ‘Angel of Montgomery’, a song about coming to terms with aging that was turned into a massive hit by Bonnie Raitt, and ‘Hello In There’, another song about coming to grips with old age.
“Old people just grow lonesome. Hello in there. Hello,” go some of the lyrics that could apply to the seniors closed in now during this pandemic, holding up little signs of hello to their loved ones, through windows.
John Prine, who had battled serious health problems before, including cancer, and managed to come back, was admitted to hospital in late March, and died a week or so later, on April 7th, from complications of COVID-19.
He was 73 years old, and still writing songs, recording and performing up to the time he became mortally ill.
Just to remind or to give people who have never seen him perform before, a taste of his magic, and the intelligence and wit behind so many of the stories he told in song, here is a song from his 1991, Grammy Award winning album (one of his very best, if you can only afford one) ‘The Missing Years’.
The song you will hear on the video here, by clicking on the screen below, is ‘Jesus, The Missing Years’ from the album, ‘The Missing Years’ –
Here is a beautiful tribute to his friend that Arlo Guthrie posted on his Facebook page on April 8th, 2020, the morning after John Prine died –
“I’ve been sitting here for about an hour trying to write something about my friend, John Prine who died yesterday. Words don’t come easily especially when you’re talking about someone who was so good with words. Regular everyday words about everyday things came from him in a way that just doesn’t happen very often.
“We first met back in the early 1970s when I was waltzing around with Steve Goodman in Chicago. But, it wasn’t until a little more than a decade later we really got to hang out. Sometime in the mid 1980s we began doing a lot of gigs together.
“I remember standing off the side of the stage with my band, listening to John onstage. His songs were simple and straight forward, and after a few nights we knew them. We wanted to go out and play with him. And although it happened a few times here and there, most of the gigs we did together were separated by intermissions.
“My buddy Pete Seeger used to say “Anyone can make a song complicated. It takes a real genius to keep it simple.” John Prine was that kind of genius. And because he was able to keep it simple, we could learn his songs really quickly. They are still there in my mind today.
“In 2005 John and I did our last gig together. It was in Denver at the Botanical Gardens. Nothing had changed. I was still listening to his gig as I’d done dozens of times from the side of the stage.
“Neither of us appeared to be interested in uninteresting things. But, he wasn’t offish. He was warm, considerate, and willing to put up with the never ending demands of being a nice guy. He showed real compassion with everyone he had to work with, and the crowds of folks who could relate to his heart through the songs he sang.
“I got the feeling that he would’ve been the same guy no matter what he was doing — And didn’t need to be onstage. He just found himself there and did the best he could with it. With a twinkle in his eyes, and a few kind words and observations, John was one of the good guys.”
— Arlo Guthrie, from Arlo’s Facebook page
Right on Arlo. You have always had such a wonderful way with words.
Finally, here is another one of John Prine’s old friends, Joan Baez, in a video she recently made at her home, performing Prine’s song ‘Hello In There’, while she and so many of the rest of us were still hoping he would pull through –
In 1985, John Prine wrote the liner notes to and for his old friend from Chicago, Steven Goodman, who died from cancer and who wrote one of Arlo Guthrie’s biggest hit songs ‘City of New Orleans’.
Here are the final words from those liner notes, as they were published on an album called ‘A Tribute to Steven Goodman’ –
“So there you go partner. The beer’s in the bathtub, there’ll be no showers tonight, and the fat lady is still singing one long song. Give us all a call sometime.”
Maybe John and Steve are together again, strumming their guitars and singing some tunes now. How about one more chorus of ‘Please Don’t Bury Me.’
RIP, John Prine
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