John Prine has been captivating many since the release of his self-titled debut album in 1971. With that said, let’s call to mind John Prine’s Top 10 songs throughout his career.
10. You Never Even Called Me By My Name (1971)
This was written by John Prine and Steve Goodman in 1971. Prine, however, decided not to be named.
The song’s imagery and humor completely fit the personality of David Allan Coe who popularized it in 1975. You Never Even Called Me By My Name became Coe’s first single to make it to the top 10 of the charts.
Though Prine wasn’t credited as per his request, this humorous song solidified both Coe’s and Prine’s reputation of being the country music outlaws that they are.
9. Illegal Smile (1971)
“Illegal Smile“ was the first track in Prine’s debut album which has introduced the world to his humorous storytelling slicks. It’s pretty much about the ability to still smile even when life’s not comfortable. Prine also said that the song was his inner child reflection of seeing and appreciatings things that most people won’t see as worth smiling about.
8. Mental Cruelty (2016)
Prine teamed up with Kacey Musgraves for “Mental Cruelty” and this was one of the potential songs that his 2016 album, “For Better or for Worse” had to offer. The song showcased a clever back and forth exchange between Prine and Musgraves which made the collaboration perfect.
The album also consisted of Prine’s vintage duets with the most popular female country artists including Amanda Shires and country-pop mainstay Miranda Lambert.
7. Angel From Montgomery (1971)
“Angel From Montgomery” was one of the well-known songs that came from Prine’s self-titled 1971 album. Bonnie Raitt’s iconic cover of this track in 1974 also played a big role in expanding its fame.
Prine said that the song was based on a picture of a woman who was standing over the dishwasher with soap all over her hands. All she wanted to do was to walk away from everything but could only wait for an angel to take her away.
The mixture of the traditional country sound and the gospel like organ backing sound was featured in the song.
6. Everything Is Cool (1991)
“Everything is Cool” is the perfect coping song for the lonely during Christmas. The song was included in Prine’s 2009 record, “A John Prine Christmas. “Everything is Cool” included lyrics about a “black-haired angel” and “the valley of the unconcerned.” The black-haired angel was allegedly in reference to Prine’s wife, Fiona.
As seen and heard in our first half of John Prine’s Top 10 Songs, both his fans and critics would be amazed by his ability to weave words in a song. Prine’s intelligence and skill in songwriting also gained praise from several artists and groups such as Bob Dylan, Jason Isbell, Americana Music Association, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Enjoy the rest!
5. In Spite of Ourselves (1999)
“In Spite of Ourselves“ was part of Prine’s studio album of the same name which was released after his recovery from throat cancer. The song talks about how love prevails in a relationship in spite of one or both the lovers’ many shortcomings.
This was also the 1st album where Prine exclusively did duets with female artists. In Spite of Ourselves again showed the finest skills of Prine as a songwriter, storyteller, and performer.
4. Some Humans Ain’t Human (2005)
Like any other protest song, Some Humans Ain’t Humans depicts a picture of mankind’s dark nature. This was basically Prine’s political stance where he portrayed the presidency of George W. Bush and the war in Iraq in a not-so-positive light.
3. Sam Stone (1971)
Writing songs that tackle war and addiction is not an easy feat for most artists. But for Prine, he did it with grace, in vivid imagery, and depth as a 24-year-old newcomer in the music industry. That makes “Sam Stone” the third in this roll of John Prine’s top 10 songs.
“Sam Stone” is about how a war veteran dealt with physical, mental and emotional distress leading to drug addiction.
2. Lake Marie (2001)
Lake Marie is one of the most literary songs in any genre and deserving to be placed 2nd in John Prine’s top 10 songs. The song touched on sensitive topics like abandoned babies and crumbling marriages. Prine has masterfully woven “Lake Marie” in a way that left us hanging in its end, thus, making us want to hear more of the story.
1. Summer’s End (2018)
From his 2018 “The Tree of Forgiveness,” Prine’s lyrical storytelling and his careful instrumentation clearly brought “Summer’s End” to a whole new level. The track was saturated in hope even when a well-loved season of one’s life comes to an end. This was also Prine’s reflection song on the devastating effects that the opioid crisis has brought to America.
And that wraps our list of John Prine’s Top 10 Songs! In the 2 dozens albums which he has produced in 50 years, John Prine has proven to be one of the best storytellers. Whatever theme he chooses from a tragic story, introspection of the past or incidents that leave us guessing, Prine’s lyrical presentation has always piqued our interest and imagination.