Seven Overshadowed & Undercelebrated John Prine Songs

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

John Prine. “I don’t have to compete against myself. Because that’s crazy.”

Unlike most songwriters starting out who would never consider such a thing, the issue of your songs being overshadowed by your other songs did occur to John Prine. Because, as he said, everyone kept asking him about this after his debut album.

It was a reasonable question. After writing masterpieces from the start such as Hello In There,” “Sam Stone” or “Angel from Montgomery” what would he do next?

Most never have such worries. If classics ever are written, they usually come after the first album. Often years after. Not for John Prine. But he quickly adjusted.

His solution? “To remember that the gift I have,” he said in our interview. “I only owe it to myself to honor that gift.”

“I don’t have to compete against myself,” he said. “Because that’s crazy. Why try to write a better song about old people or a better song about a veteran coming home? Why try to update “Sam Stone”? There’s no reason to.

“So I try and stay true to wherever the writing comes from. And it comes from the deepest well of emotion. Whether it’s something political, something humorous, something that might break your heart, if that’s what’s down in the well, that’s what I’ll come up with.

Here’s seven of those, from the deep well and the big heart of John Prine.

1. John Prine, “Mexican Home,” live
from John Prine Live, 2016


2. John Prine, “Saddle in the Rain”
from Common Sense, 1975.

Produced by Steve Cropper.


3. John Prine, “Sabu Visits the Twin Cities Alone,”
from Bruised Orange,” 1978.
Produced by Steve Goodman.


4. John Prine, “Blue Umbrella”
from Sweet Revenge, 1973

Produced by Arif Mardin


5. John Prine, “The Late John Garfield Blues”
from Diamonds in the Rough, 1972

Produced by Arif Mardin.

6. John Prine, “Onomotopeia”
from Sweet Revenge, 1973
Produced by Arif Mardin


7. John Prine, “When I Get To Heaven”
from Tree of Forgiveness, 2018
Produced by Dave Cobb

Video directed & animated by Joshua Britt & Neilson Hubbard

“When I Get To Heaven”
By John Prine


When I get to heaven, I’m gonna shake God’s hand
Thank him for more blessings than one man can stand
Then I’m gonna get a guitar and start a rock-n-roll band
Check into a swell hotel; ain’t the afterlife grand?

And then I’m gonna get a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale
Yeah, I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long
I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl
‘Cause this old man is goin’ to town


Then as God as my witness,
I’m gettin’ back into showbusiness
I’m gonna open up a nightclub
Called “The Tree of Forgiveness”

And forgive everybody ever done me any harm
Well, I might even invite a few choice critics,
those syph’litic parasitics
Buy ’em a pint of Smithwick’s and smother ’em with my charm

And then I’m gonna get a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale
Yeah, I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long
I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl
‘Cause this old man is goin’ to town


Yeah when I get to heaven,
I’m gonna take that wristwatch off my arm
What are you gonna do with time after you’ve bought the farm?
And then I’m gonna go find my mom and dad,
and good old brother Doug
Well I bet him and cousin Jackie are still cuttin’ up a rug

I wanna see all my mama’s sisters,
’cause that’s where all the love starts
I miss ’em all like crazy, bless their little hearts

And I always will remember these words my daddy said
He said, “Buddy, when you’re dead, you’re a dead pecker-head”
I hope to prove him wrong, that is, when I get to heaven

And then I’m gonna get a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale
Yeah, I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long
I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl
‘Cause this old man is goin’ to town


Leave a Reply

Reflections on Hearing the Audible Version of ‘Conversations with Tom Petty’

New Documentary ‘Herb Alpert Is…’ Provides A Fascinating Retrospective Of A Living Legend Of Music, Business and Philanthropy