John Prine’s music is about the rest of us.
Prine brings his music-as-real-life show to the Ford Amphitheater Friday night. Do yourself a favor and go.
“Writing is about a blank piece of paper and leaving out what’s not supposed to be there.”
John Prine, April 1993, “Performing Songwriter” magazine
Prine’s latest release, “Souvenirs,” is a re-recorded collection of some of his most classic work. The album is a marvel of ageless brilliance, with great songs made even better by the way both Prine’s voice and music have stood the test of time. Buy it, play it in your car while you sing along real loud, and if some silly-headed kids have the audacity to reach for the stereo buttons to switch the music to something that sounds like an F-16 attacking a shopping mall, lovingly but enthusiastically knock their hands away with a metal ruler and make ’em walk. It’s for their own good.
Longtime Prine People might notice on “Souvenirs” the absence of some his more biting work (“Dear Abby” and “Illegal Smile,” for example) but that’s just another reason to go to Friday’s show.
He started writing songs when he was 14. He signed with a major record label after leaving the Army, and started his own label (“Oh Boy Records”) in 1983. A Grammy and two Grammy nominations have followed, as has a large contingent of loyal fans.
Basically, it’s like this: In the beginning, God kicked loose all the really great ideas and they’re just floating around the universe. Once in a while one floats by you, and the only way to catch it is with a pen and paper. If you don’t catch it, it floats on to someone else who’s paying attention.
You know Prine is paying attention by the lines that stick in your memory like a rogue uncle’s sly smile. Lines that make the rest of us writer types launch our pens into space in frustration and take jobs as mid-level government bureaucrats.
John Prine, the world’s most universally literate ex-Chicago mailman, has been paying attention for decades.