In Rural Stark County Illinois, centered around the town of Wyoming, I hooked up with this tribe of old friends and older acquaintances. We all had one thing in common and that common bond was music. We ended up just about every night at someone's farm house, playing music and listening to many artists. In the early 70s the choices were vast and incredibly eclectic. The one record that was played back to back every night was John Prine's first album on Atlantic.
The one with him sitting on a bale of hay looking up to the camera. The everyday observations for the common man in each song touched us. "Sam Stone" was one of my favorites. Also, of course "Illegal Smile" was an anthem for the underground community when being that illegal was sometimes a jail sentence.
John Prine changed our lives. It's kinda like being a Tom Waits fan; you are IN!! I have many stories about John and his family. I'm grateful for having had the privilege to experience over the last 40 years. I met and became best friends with Billy Prine here in Cotati, Ca. We have maintained a lovely relationship and I am truly, deeply feeling his loss on a personal level.
There are only three artists that instantly made me break out and cry, when I heard of their passing. Here they are in sequential order. The three of them were incredible songwriters.
Stevie Goodman whom I met through the Prine family. It must be noted he was John’s partner and produced Bruised Orange in Chicago. He also wrote the American Music standard "City of New Orleans!" His ashes were scattered at the pitcher's mound of their beloved Cubs, Wrigley field in Chicago. He died way too early of leukemia.
Lowell George of Little Feat, like the other two, was a songwriter amongst song writers. "Willin" stands out as a common man’s song about “getting through your day/night." We all sang it like an anthem. He was an amazing slide player as well.
The third was John Prine. When we heard the news the country was on its knees praying for his recovery. John and his wife, Fiona, had an amazing year prior to March. He was finally recognized by the Grammy Awards community. He was so grateful and humble to be a part of it. Bonnie Raitt did a rendition of "Angel from Montgomery." He had just released an amazing album and his fertile imagination was on full display. Folks hear this!!! The man was at the apex of his career. If you need any evidence of who he influenced just go to any FB account and see how he resonated with our souls.
In the video “When I Get to Heaven” John writes about death in his iconic way. Billy Prine, Chris Marvin and I would stay up late playing music at Prairie Sun Recording. We'd also talk about philosophy and what we might have learned so far. Billy shared the famous quote from his father that never left me “My father always said, Once you're dead you’re a dead pecker head” John always quoted his father at every concert and this line is straight out of Kentucky.
Billy Prine’s podcast is done with beautiful stories about where the Prine family came from in Paradise, Kentucky. Check out Prine Time below.
~Mark "Mooka" Rennick~
"Rolling Hills of Kentucky"