It completely sucks that John Prine has died. I’ve not been enough of a die-hard fan across the years to have earned the right to compose a tribute, but I’m writing one anyway.
Most of my interest in Prine’s work came in the first half of the 90s, starting soon after Jay and Michelle moved to Champaign-Urbana from North Carolina. Jay, like me, was studying math, Michelle educational psychology. He was also as interested in bridge as I was; an introduction to my card-playing circle followed. Jay also knew of my appetite for music, and in the summer of 1991 he loaned me a dubbed cassette of Bruised Orange.
That October, my college roommate James got married to Amy; I was part of the wedding party. The rehearsal dinner took place on a boat that gave tours up and down the Kentucky River, not far from where James grew up (his father had worked there after he retired). James and Amy had hired some musicians to play and sing for us that evening, a guitarist and fiddler, if I’m recalling correctly. My ears definitely perked up when I heard them start on Bruised Orange‘s lead track, “Fish and Whistle.” Just a little odd when a decade-plus-old song enters into your life from a couple different directions almost at once.
I was fortunate to have seen Prine in concert once, in Louisville in August of 1993. While I don’t remember any specifics of the show, my sense now is that his stage presence was exactly what you’d expect from listening to his albums. I picked up the compilation Great Days right around that time, too. I’ve given both of its disks a listen in the last week; I imagine I’ll be doing that again (and maybe again) in the coming days.
It’s a mighty loss. Thanks so much for the music, Mr. Prine–rest in peace, and I hope you know what a treasure you were.
I sure hope we don’t ever have to do this again.