Watch and listen to live performances of 13 songs from the late 1971 LP by the late singer-songwriter.

By Nate Todd 10 October 2021 • 7:35 a.m. PDT

John Prine was born on this date in 1946 in Maywood, Illinois near Chicago. Beloved singer-songwriter sadly passed away on April 7, 2020 due to complications from COVID-19. No one could sing both the good and the band that exists in this country with wit, humor and authenticity like Prine. All of these traits and more were evident from the start when John Prine released his self-titled debut album 50 years ago.

The 13 tracks on John prine are amazing. John began composing many songs while working as a postman after serving in the military and would later perform them at open mic parties around Chicago.

As covers of stars like “Angel From Montgomery”, “Hello In There”, “Sam Stone” and “Paradise” have taken hold in cafes and echoed in arenas over the years, Prine himself has remarkably preserved the 13 pieces of his live repertoire. also. For this special edition of Sunday cinema, JamBase takes a look at John Prine playing John prine throughout his five-decade career.

Illegal smile

While “Illegal Smile” has become an “anthem for drug smokers,” as John put it, John Prine’s incredible overture is not about the pot ban per se, but goes much further as as commentary on the ban of thought. John featured the air in the Underground News Broadcast in 1972 as “A Song about the Smile … Illegally”.

Spanish utopia

The early 1970s saw many disillusioned people reject “normal” society and fall back on a more communal and nature-based way of life. John captures this sentiment perfectly in his song “Spanish Pipedream”. See Prine perform the song on Soundstage in 1980.


Hello there

The perfect partner of “Spanish Pipedream”, a song more aimed at young people, the magnificent “Hello In There” is a poignant ode to the elderly.

“I’ve always had an affinity for the elderly,” John said. “I used to help a buddy with his newspaper rounds, and I would deliver to a Baptist nursing home where we had to go from room to room. And some patients would kind of pretend that you were a grandchild or a nephew coming to visit you, instead of the guy delivering papers. It always stuck in my head. It was all that together, with this lovely melody. I don’t think I did a show without singing “Hello in There”. Nothing in it wears me out.

Prine delivery men above “Hello In There” during her Showtimes at West 54th performances in 2000.

Sam Stone

The reason many people were disillusioned in the 1970s was America’s involvement in Vietnam. Not only was the war terrible, like all wars, but for many veterans the landscape at home was just as trapped as the jungles of Vietnam. The first two lines of the chorus say it all: “There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes / Jesus Christ died for nothing, I guess.”


Prine wrote the beloved autobiographical song “Paradise” for her father, who was originally from Muhlenberg County, Ky., Where he took John as a child to visit his family in the true hamlet of Paradise.

“It was a real Disney-like town,” recalls John. “He was sitting on the river, had two general stores, and there was a black man in town, Bubby Short. He looked like Uncle Remus and hung out with my grandfather Ham, my mom’s dad, all day catching catfish. Then the bulldozers came in and wiped everything off the map. ”

These bulldozers were sent in by the Tennessee Valley Authority power company because Paradise was deemed unfit to live due to the nearby Paradise Fossil plant. John attributes the destruction of the town to the Peabody Coal Mining Company, which effectively mined the surface area. Prine aptly performed the above song on Farm Aid in 1986.

Pretty good

The first side is getting closer John prine, “Pretty Good” is apparently a song about the prospect. What is fantastic for some is trivial for others. John performed the above song in 1973 at the MIDEM Gala in France.

Your flag sticker will no longer take you to paradise

“Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore” is another anti-war song delivered with John’s trademark spirit (“While digesting readers digest”). The tune is also another that is just as relevant in the 21st century as it was during the Vietnam War, addressing those who justify violence and aggression under the guise of patriotism. While Prine didn’t perform the song for a while in the ’80s and’ 90s, he relaunched it in the 2000s as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan raged. Watch John perform Washington DC’s “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You into Heaven Anymore” in 2005.


Far from me

Prine has often cited “Far From Me” as his favorite among his compositions. The stellar line “a broken bottle looks like a diamond ring” “refers to my childhood,” Prine said. “We were raised near a junkyard and one of my favorite hobbies was playing in the junkyard at the junkyard. Children always commented that the shards of glass looked like a field of diamonds. The majority of my songs are written from life experiences and often there is no symbolism but just words that take me to another place and time. The above performance is another from Prine Showtimes at West 54th appearance.

Montgomery Angel

One of Prine’s most cover songs, perhaps most notably by Bonnie raitt who performs the song with John at Farm Aid ’86 above, “Angel From Montgomery” is said to have appeared when a friend urged him to write “another song about the elderly” in reference to the aforementioned “Hello In There” . But the song took a different direction as “about a middle-aged woman who feels older than her,” Prine said.

“I had this really vivid image of this woman standing over dishwater with soap in her hands… She wanted to get out of her house and her wedding and everything. She just wanted an angel to come and take her away from it all.


calm man

“Quiet Man” is a song full of vivid images and wise words. While the album’s version is more folkloric, John skillfully transforms the song about a “calm man” into something rocking at a concert on March 31, 2017 at the Hershey Theater.

Donald and Lydia (Audio only)

This live audio of “Donald and Lydia” is from a Prine concert at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis in February 1973. While John said he got the names from a book of baby names, he brings them to life with this song focused on the characters about loneliness and isolation.

Six o’clock news

John Prine wrote in the cover of his 1988 album John Prine Live that he was inspired for “Six O’Clock News” by a neighborhood kid “who was always in trouble and chose me as a friend. His brothers pushed him around a lot and his mother usually ignored him. Years later as a still troubled teenager he found himself in juvenile court and the prosecutor decided to tell my friend that his father was his father, but his mother was his older sister. No wonder he always got in trouble.

Another from Showtimes at West 54th.


Flashback Blues (Audio only)

The above live audio from John prine more closely “Flashback Blues” dates from 1970 before the album’s release. The song is about both catharsis and the dangers of nostalgia, a much ambiguous conclusion to Prine’s timeless masterpiece.