I hate graveyards and old pawn shops
For they also bring me tears
I can't forgive the way they rob me
Of my childhood souvenirs ... from "Souvenirs" by John Prine
John Prine died in April 2020, an early victim of COVID-19. It is now September and I am just now sitting down to write about the huge personal loss I felt and will continue to feel.
All (or at least most of us) have special music from our youth; sounds that captured a time in our life when we were growing and changing. Music that expanded our viewpoint and introduced us to new worlds. For some in my generation it was Dylan, others Springsteen. We all had those performers who joined us and accompanied us along our life journey.
I first came across John's music (I hope he doesn't mind us being on a first name basis) in San Luis Obispo at Cheap Thrills record store upstairs from the Dark Room Tavern. Born and raised in a suburb fifteen minutes outside of Los Angeles, I was a product of Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Gordon Lightfoot, and Bob Dylan, so why I picked up the LP with the mullet sporting John sitting on a hay bale is a mystery. When I got back to my room and put the record on the turntable, I would like to say that his music captured me immediately, but that would be untrue. My roommate tolerated the first side before replacing the album with Emerson, Lake and Palmer. The fact that I had dropped ten bucks on the album forced me to play side two. On that second listening "Angel from Montgomery" and especially "Quiet Man" hit a nerve and I listened to that album over and over. Crazy good lyrics and clean finger picking setting off simple tunes. The hook was set and when I heard "Souvenirs" from his second album I was a goner.
Since I was eighteen, I have owned every John Prine album and seen him multiple times in concert. His music served as a gateway to new avenues of music, bringing an appreciation of Guy Clark, Bonne Raitt, Townes van Zandt, Steve Earle, Kris Kristofferson, Steve Goodman, Jason Isbell….the list is long and fulfilling. John's lyrics, his empathy, understanding, humor and creativity has been part of my life for almost fifty years.
I am not alone in my sorrow, John had many dedicated fans, there have been many memorials penned since his sad passing. It has taken a while for me to add my own tribute and I am deeply aware of my sadness, but I am also grateful. Thankful that John was there to help me along my path through this goofy world and sad that he will not be there in the future.
Thanks John, you will be missed.