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John Prine

Mr. Tufte,

I'm new to your ideas and concepts about visual design and have just finished reading "The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint." Not to diminish the strength and validity of your work presented, I was most impressed with your John Prine quote.

I am always amazed at the people who love John Prine. I am a very big fan of John Prine. John could write of me, "And if I wrote a song, She'd know ever single word." My most recent concert was October 24, 2003 in Evansville, In., with many of his family members in the audience. I'm already preparing for a show this year, just need to pick a city.

My questions are:

Do you attend any of the live shows? Who's getting regular play on your CD at this moment? Any John Prine?

-- Christine (email)

"Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios," quoted in The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint, comes from John Prine's "Sam Stone". It is nice that someone noticed. I've been to 4 JP concerts, once where he opened for a then-collapsing Cowboy Junkies, and most recently about a year ago in New Haven after his hip operation where he was wonderful. There was a failed effort to have him help celebrate my birthday at one point. I first heard him at Princeton in the early 1970s singing "your flag decal won't get you into heaven anymore" and "illegal smile". The line "if I wrote a song, she'd know every single word" is among my favorites, along with the song about Sabu the Indian child actor and "The Great Compromise". There are many other good lines.

The title of my Envisioning Information comes in part from Prine's line "envisioning romantic scenes after midnight" from "Donald and Lydia".

I'm traveling a lot right now (well, actually enjoying Key West at the moment) and have no JP CD's on the road, but do have Dylan's Time Out of Mind, Ferron's Driver, Keith Jarrett's The Melody at Night With You, Pete Malinerni, A Very Good Year, Ryoji Ikeda, Op. 1-3 (2000-2002), Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, and some late Beethoven quartets by the Emerson String Quartet.

In his Who's Who bio, John Prine describes himself as "President, Oh Boy Records"? A self-publisher!

The 28-page version of "The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint" has another line of poetry; the opening page epigraph under the title is "Not waving but drowning" by Stevie Smith from her poem by the same name. Stevie Smith and John Prine in fact have a fair amount in common (straightforward style, humor within the pain, a personal experience accompanied by summary lessons) in their work. Smith's Poem "Drugs Made Pauline Vague" sounds like a John Prine song. She also wrote a good poem about Copernicus which I can't find right now.

-- Edward Tufte

And just to keep this somewhat on the subject of visual design, here's a cartoon you might find amusing.


-- Christine (email)

In the early 1980s, I went to a folk festival in western Illinois with my sister, who was singing in an autoharp band at the time. In the campground that night, the people in the campsite next to us sat up all night singing nothing but John Prine songs. And I don't think they repeated any of them. How could one person write so many songs, and so many GOOD songs, at that?

-- Brad Hurley (email)

John Prine's first record in 1971 contained these songs, so many classics:

Illegal Smile, Spanish Pipedream, Hello In There, Sam Stone, Paradise, Pretty Good, Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore, Far From Me, Angel From Montgomery, Quiet Man, Donald And Lydia, Six O'Clock News, Flashback Blues



-- Edward Tufte

Here is Stevie Smith's Copernicus poem:


Thought is superior to dress and circumstance,

It is thought proud thought that sets the world in a dance.

And what is the greatest thought since the world begun?

Copernicus's discovery that the earth goes round the sun.

. .

See what I mean about Stevie Smith and John Prine?

-- Edward Tufte

I love the way John weaves the wisdom of life into his lyrics - chorus from Hello in There Ya' know that old trees just grow stronger, And old rivers grow wilder ev'ry day. Old people just grow lonesome Waiting for someone to say, "Hello in there, hello."

Then ends the song with: So if you're walking down the street sometime And spot some hollow ancient eyes, Please don't just pass 'em by and stare As if you didn't care, say, "Hello in there, hello."

Looking forward to his show in Cleveland next month.

-- Christine (email)

John Prine's new record, Fair and Square, is excellent. For me, probably his best.

The record includes his old concert song about the clown who puts his make-up on upside down with the line about how he comes down the stairs and "assumes the body of a person you presume who cares."

And it also includes a touching first-person song about an older performer trying to find his way one more time and getting on with it (which doesn't get any easier).

-- Edward Tufte

If you like John Prine, I think you'll like this thread

This isn't about John Prine, but if you like John Prine, I think you'll like this thread:

Ask reddit: What are some good artists I should download and listen to, that won't put money in the pocket of RIAA, and other greedy middlemen?

Here are some of the more potent links in the thread, but the discussion also includes opinions from recording artists, and links to dozens of bands.

  • RIAA radar, a resource to screen music for RIAA affiliation before buying.
  • CD Baby, an independent CD distributor with an average of 91% going back to the artists.
  • eMusic, an online independent music retailer.
  • Magnatune another online independent music retailer, label, distributor, I'm not sure what, exactly, but I like it.
  • Mutopia project, a source for free sheet music.
  • Merge records, a label.
  • K records, another label.
  • Rightous Babe, Ani DiFranco's label.

-- Niels Olson (email)

Threads relevant to music:

Threads relevant to some interesting people:

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