Welcome to my campfire. Pull up a log and make yourselves comfortable.
Well, not too comfortable now… make sure those logs are a good 2 metres or 6 feet apart.
Get your marshmallows on your stick, or maybe grill up something a little more substantial.
I’d like to sing you a song about Paradise. Paradise, Kentucky, that is. You see, last week, a favourite singer/songwriter died of COVID-19. His body had been through so much, having survived squamous cell cancer on his neck a number of years earlier, and it just couldn’t survive this new assault.
John Prine was discovered in the ’70’s in Chicago by Robert Ebert and Kris Kristofferson. He was much admired for his down-to-earth songwriting, so often infused with humour, and known for his raspy voice. Some compared him to Bob Dylan, but his style had a lot of bluegrass mixed in with the folk.
One of the songs on his first album was about his parents’ hometown in Kentucky, mourning the ravages that the town had suffered at the hands of the Peabody Coal Company during the years of strip mining. “Paradise” also talks about the simpler times of childhood and wanting to go back to where you are from when you die.
When I heard that John Prine was sick, for the first time in 5 or 10 years I wanted to get out my guitar and sing. My fingers hurt making the chords on the steel-string guitar and I’m a bit rusty on the chord changes, but here is my campfire tribute to John Prine, recorded on my iPhone:
While Prine was sick in the hospital, Stephen Colbert posted a video of himself singing with John Prine just a few years ago, showing off a surprisingly good bluegrass voice.
And here is Bill Murray talking about how John Prine’s lyrics brought him back from feeling depressed, by making him think he might be able to laugh again.
And John Prine himself, singing in 2018 about what’s going to happen when he gets to heaven.
Rest in Paradise, John. Thanks for all the joy that your songs brought to me and so many others.