John Prine, a legend among singer-songwriters, is coming to St. John’s on May 8th, and tickets, going on sale Friday Dec. 9th at the Arts & Culture Centre, won’t last long.
You know he’s won some Grammys, and is in the Nashville Music Hall of Fame. You know Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Bruce Springsteen have all raved about him, and that Johnny Cash, The Everly Brothers, and Bette Middler have all covered him.
You know he can turn a phrase like, “If dreams were lightning and thunder was desire, this old house would have burned down a long time ago.” You know songs like “Hello in There,” “Angel from Montgomery,” or “Illegal Smile,” and that super-endearing chestnut with Iris Dement, “In Spite of Ourselves.”
… But did you know these 3 things?
1.) He was a mailman. Writing songs was just a hobby. After serving in the US military, Prine settled into Chicago as a postman, and became part of the city’s folk revival, where he was discovered and encouraged by Kris Kristofferson. That chance discovery led to Prine’s big debut album, John Prine (1971). The album was so well-received, he hung up his mailman bag, and became a full time musician.
2.) 45 years into his career, he’s writing better than ever: his brand new album, For Better Or Worse, is his highest-charting album to date. It debuted on the Billboard charts at #2 on the Country chart, #5 on the Americana/Folk chart, #7 on the Independent Albums chart, and #30 on the Billboard 200. The new album has another witty duet on it with Iris Dement. In fact, every track has a guest dueteer.
3.) His famous duet with Iris Dement, “In Spite of Ourselves,” was written for a movie Billy Bob Thorton wrote, directed, and starred in. John also starred in the movie, as Billy Bob’s brother. Billy Bob asked John to write a song to close out the film (which was called Daddy and Them), and John had never done such a thing. He asked Billy Bob, “Am I supposed to talk about the characters, or not talk about the characters?” Because in his opinion, songs aren’t always paired well with movies. “Sometimes it’s like an alarm clock going off, you think, what the hell is that song doing here?” Billy Bob’s vague direction was, “Mm Hmm.” The song is based “real loosely” on a couple of characters in the film.