We are devastated to learn of the passing of John Prine due to COVID-19. In the early 80’s I delivered audio-visual equipment all over the Bay Area, which is to say I drove around and wrote songs all day long. When I wasn’t actually composing I was listening to KFAT Radio out of Gilroy, studying what a song really IS or really could be. And in the song laboratory of my mind, John Prine was a frequent visiting professor.
Later, when Melanie and I were writing songs for our eccentric country rock bank The Twang, John’s songs challenged us to be economical, ass-kicking, soulful, singable and sly, all in the same three and a half minutes. John wrote amazing no-bullshit songs, some hilarious slices of life, some uncompromising character studies. He could crack you up and he could break your heart.
“Sam Stone,” “Illegal Smile,” “Paradise,” “Linda Goes to Mars” … we can call them up to the front of our minds faster than you can Google them. “In Spite of Ourselves” is in frequent rotation on our long drives across the country.
When we heard that John was suffering with COVID-19, we wanted to add to the chorus of those wishing him well. So Melanie pointed a camera at me, and I did my best with “Angel From Montgomery.” Molly Bauckham generously contributed a harmony.
Molly Bauckham is a wondrous singer/harpist in Seattle, and our dear friend. Please check out her YouTube Channel including covers of our songs “Someday (We Shall Overcome)” and “Hope, Struggle and Change.”
In 1983 KFAT morphed into KPIG Radio, and our beloved friend Sleepy John Sandidge has deejayed there since.
A couple years ago, Sandidge was putting together a benefit concert for a Santa Cruz musician who’d lost everything in a fire - an evening of John Prine songs, performed by a number of other local singers and songwriters. Just before the event, he got a call from John Prine’s wife and manager, Fiona. “John hears you want to use his material,” she said. Sandidge was sure a request for royalties was about to follow ... “Well,” said Fiona, “John is going to match what you make dollar for dollar.”
If you haven’t heard John Prine’s songs, DO Google them. When you’ve finished listening, you’ll know more about America. Hot dog bun, my sister’s a nun.