“Well you know, she still laughs with me
But she waits just a second too long.”
John Prine’s self-titled 1971 album was how I started my day this morning, and, as usual, I was struck by how very good a writer he is. Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You into Heaven Anymore, Sam Stone, Hello in There, Paradise, Illegal Smile, Quiet Man, Donald and Lydia, Spanish Pipedream, Far From Me, Angel From Montgomery, and more. I mean, really. On one album.
Songwriting, like poetry, is a genre I have great respect for, largely because I can’t pull it off myself. In the best examples of both, the writer is trying to show us a little glimpse of truth and there is no waste. All the words, all the phrases matter. I have read paragraphs of prose and felt that same thing, that everything worked and every word was necessary. If I get a few of those over the course of a book, I think I’ve found a real gem. A songwriter, a poet, does nothing but that. It’s a rare and wonderful thing, a gift of that caliber.