11 John Prine Songs with the Most Incisive Lyrics

Mar 7, 2017 at 6:37 am
John Prine will perform at Peabody Opera House this Friday. - Press photo via Shorefire Media
Press photo via Shorefire Media
John Prine will perform at Peabody Opera House this Friday.

“Nobody but Prine could write like that” – Bob Dylan

Singer-songwriters connect with audiences in ways impossible for mere performers. They lay bare their own hopes and heartbreaks, triumphs and

Some songs are funny, other lines are sad, but John Prine’s lyrics don’t float in one ear and out the other. The Illinois native has been making music and telling stories for almost a half century, and this Friday, March 10, he’ll do it once again at the Peabody Opera House.

With that in mind, here are eleven John Prine songs with some of his most incisive lyrics:

11. "Spanish Pipedream"

Some of Prine's lyrics are teasing plays on diction, including this one about a dancer:

Well, I sat there at the
table and I acted real naive
For I knew that topless lady had something up her sleeve
Well, she danced around the bar room and she did the hoochy-coo
Yeah she sang her song all night long, tellin' me what to do

10. "Rocky Mountain Time"

Or this one, which rings true to the traveler:

And the water tastes funny
When you’re far from your home
But it’s only the thirsty
That hunger to roam

9. "Souvenirs"

Who hasn't felt like this next play on words?

Broken hearts and dirty windows
Make life difficult to see
That's why last night and this mornin'
Always look the same to me

8. "Yes They Oughta Name a Drink After You"

Alcohol finds it's way into many of his lyrics, as it does for so many songwriters:

Looks like I had my fill
Guess I better pay my bill
When I started out I only meant to have a few
Someone just said that you left town
I better get a double round

7. "Me, Myself, and I"

As above, so below (which is to say, this one is another ode to alcohol):

Well, tonight I'll throw a party and I know who I'll invite
There's a strange and lonely person with whom I'll spend this night
There'll be no old sad memories to haunt me till I die
In that room there'll be a bottle
And me, myself and I

6. "Hello In There"

Which leads us to loneliness, another topic familiar to the traveling musician:

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.”

5. "We Are the Lonely"

Or this one, following a similar theme:

We are the lonely, all together
All together, we're all alone

-We are the Lonely

4. "Everybody"

Prine isn't afraid to comment on politics or religion, either:

While out sailing on the ocean
While out sailing on the sea
I bumped into the Savior
And He said pardon me
I said "Jesus you look tired"
He said "Jesus so do you,
Sit down son
'Cause I got some fat to

3. "
Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore"

This protest song came out during the height of Vietnam:

But your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more
They're already overcrowded
From your dirty little war
Now Jesus don't like killin'
No matter what the reasons for
And your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more

2. "Angel From Montgomery"

Commentary on relationships, the thing we sing about most, is woven throughout many of his songs.

There's flies in the kitchen
I can hear 'em there buzzing
And I ain't done nothing since I woke up today
How the hell can a person go to work in the morning
And come home in the evening and have nothing to say

1. "[We're Not] The Jet Set"

Places work their way into Prine's work.
Jeff Co. even made it into this one…

No, we're not the jet set
We're the old Chevro-let set
There's no Riviera
In Festus, Missouri
And you won't find Onassis
In Mullinville, Kansas
No, we're not the jet set
We're the old Chevro-let set
But ain't we got love

John Prine
8 p.m. Friday, March 10. The Peabody Opera House, 1400 Market Street. $59.50 to $99.50. 314-241-1888.