There is a familiarly haunting feeling of John Prine’s 1971 song “Sam Stone.” This is a story that everyone in America is familiar with, whether you have a family member who has served or is currently serving our military forces. It’s a pattern, you see. You either bounce back from the war once you get back, or not - because honestly, the stuff you see on the other side will change you, and will haunt you one way or another in more ways than one.
Released in 1971, it was a ground-breaking, yet tender song that sang about the unspoken truth of the veterans of war. Rumors are going around that the alleged soldier that stars in the song served in the Vietnam War. But if you take a listen to “Sam Stone” while surveying the current context of our great nation, it shows excellent parallels. This is still happening, to everyone everywhere.
Prine offers us a front row seat to the other unfortunate end to a veteran’s path. “Sam Stone” was unable to cope with his mundane life and turned to drugs as a means to get a grip on things. It’s a frightening truth that Prine was able to bring out in one of his most iconic songs. And the fact that it sheds light on a topic that should be addressed - more so during that time is highly admirable.
The absolute sophistication Prine devotes in his lyrics are stellar. Every word is felt by the heart. And with its simplistic style, it delivers the message well - to every person at any age. Whoever you are, wherever you are, you are not immune to a good John Prine song. He manages to write about anything and put a new pair of spectacles in what we once regarded as either unsavory or blasé
That kind of reputation has been acknowledged by the likes of other great artists. Just ask Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and the like. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential songwriters of his generation - and no one can contradict that!
With “Sam Stone,” he portrayed a heavy topic and relayed it to the masses with such graceful finesse. But what is interesting about it is the existence of two different, distinct versions. One, with his original voice, the other with a deeper, more soulful baritone. I, personally, prefer the latter, as his voice sounds more aged with wisdom (the real reason, however, is because of his radiation therapy.)
If you’re curious to listen to both version, they’re down below!
Which version were you more of a fan of? Tell us in the comment section below! Want to keep up with all things country? You can visit us at Country Thang Daily!