Since his self-titled debut album in 1971, Americana artist John Prine has been considered one of the best and most influential songwriters in the world. Counted among the fans of his work are fellow songwriting legends like Bob Dylan, Roger Waters, Bonnie Raitt, and Kris Kristofferson (who gave Prine his start in the business) and rising stars in the rock and country world like Todd Snider and Jason Isbell. Prine's lyrical output goes from humorous to sentimental to sad, sometimes in the same song. These five examples are some of his best lyrics.
-“That's the Way That the World Goes 'Round” from the album “Bruised Orange”
This song from Prine's 1978 album “Bruised Orange” is a fan favorite in concert, both for its slightly surreal lyrics and Prine's popular “missed lyrics” story about a happy enchilada.
4. “There's a hole in daddy's arm where all the money goes. And Jesus Christ died for nothing, I suppose. Little pitchers have big ears. Don't stop to count the years. Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.”
-“Sam Stone” from the album “John Prine”
John Prine's 1971 self-titled debut album contains enough great songs to make a strong career for most songwriters. Among the many gems on this album is one of the best Vietnam war protest songs ever written. While most protest songs focused on the war itself and the morality of going to war, Prine was one of the few songwriters to focus on the affect the war had on soldiers for life, and the one who nailed it best.
3. “Dear Abby, Dear Abby, well I never thought that me and my girlfriend would ever get caught. We were sitting in the back seat just shooting the breeze, with her hair up in curlers and her pants to her knees. Signed, Just Married.”
-“Dear Abby” from the album “Sweet Revenge”
While songs like “Sam Stone” made John Prine best known for his protest music, he is also a highly gifted musical comedian. “Dear Abby” is another song that wasn't ever a major hit for Prine but has become a live staple because of his perfectly timed comedic delivery of the above line.
2. “While digesting Reader's Digest in the back of the dirty book store, a plastic flag with gum on the back fell out on the floor. I picked it up and I ran outside, slapped it on my window shield. And if I could see 'ol Betsy Ross, I'd tell her how goo
-“Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore” from the album “John Prine”
Another song from John Prine's blockbuster self-titled debut album, “Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore” was written while Prine was a mail carrier. At the height of the Vietnam war he recalls Reader's Digest coming with a flag sticker and watching how everyone had put them up along his route the next day. This song fell out of Prine's live setlists for years, but was brought back during the Iraq war, as Prine explains “at the request of our President. He didn't request it personally, but boy is he asking for it!”
-“Hello in There” from the album “John Prine”
John Prine has gone on record that “Hello in There” is his favorite among the songs he wrote and is a song that he will always have in his setlist. That's just fine with John Prine's fan base as this achingly raw story about the loneliness of retirement resonates as strongly today as it did in 1971.
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