John Prine (1946-2020) was an Illinois native and singer-songwriter whose career spanned 40+ years and encompassed diverse music genres. With his wry sense of humor, sharp, incisive songwriting, and endearingly offbeat perspective, he distinguished himself as a true original. His first official book, John Prine Beyond Words, is a songbook that curates selections of favorite songs, photos and stories drawn from his catalog.
Watch HSB Compilation (songs from HSB11, HSB14, HSB17)
The first John Prine song I heard was “Illegal Smile”. It was so simple and yet the story struck me, the thought of escaping reality was very appealing. And there were more stories on that album, “Sam Stone”, “Donald & Lydia”. “Angel from Montgomery” was mystical and that was just his first record.
John wrote the best songs, they seemed effortless but each one made you feel like you were living the story with him. In 2017 after we put the schedule together, Kurt Vile’s team said he had spoken to Prine and wanted to join him for a song. There was significant overlap in their sets but we had a golf cart waiting for Kurt to take over to the Banjo Stage. They sang “The Speed of the Sound of Loneliness” together which seems fitting for today. It was difficult to pick just one song for this tribute so we have several. We also recommend you view his full sets from 2014 and 2017 and share your memories.
John has been one of the perennial favorites at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. He was an amazing character and every staff member has a different story to share. As we compared notes today, we found ourselves laughing while holding back tears. This is a huge loss that we will be reeling from for a long time to come.
Sheri Sternberg and the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Staff