Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"I really love America. I just don't know how to get there anymore."

John Prine is a local boy who grew up about a mile from where I'm sitting. He comes back from time to time, but as much as I like his music, these days he's playing to a different crowd and I'm not in it. His Chicago venues are upscale, impersonal and expensive. Far removed from the dives where he cut his chops.

To the left on this page I have included the John Prine catalog in my "Fundamentals of Understanding" section of seminal works.

That section was going to be much longer. As I considered the tomes, poems and papers that IMO, everyone should know, read and practice, I realized that perhaps the essence of life, and living in a modern world,is summarized by Heinlein, Suess and Prine. I further consider MIAHM and Yertle to be their seminal, stand-alone works.

Broadening the scope would not promote clarity or improve on the education much. You could add depth, breadth and width, encompass all the known classics, identify redundant themes, layered nuance and specifics by citing great works by great thinkers, but at core you don't gain much in the way of understanding.

You can disagree and probably do. But can you limit your bookshelf to three authors and capture the necessary Poli-Sci elements of people living together, the challenges they will face and the basic tools to make things work?

But back to the matter at hand....

When "Great Days" The John Prine Anthology was released
in 1993 I gleefully plunked down my money to own it. Even though I already had the Prine catalog, on vinyl, this propelled me into the Compact Disc age.

As much, if not more than the music, liner notes have been part of my life. I especially liked the ones that lent insight into the lyics. "What I was trying to say was", "What inspired that phrasing was"...

Great Days went above and beyond. In Prine's own words:

"The Great Compromise" - The idea I had in mind was
that America was this girl you used to take to the
drive-in movies. And then when you went to get some
popcorn, she turned around and screwed some guy in a
foreign sports car.
I really love America. I just don't know how to get there anymore.

"Common Sense" - This was my Bicentennial tribute to
that other great American patriot, Tom Paine. It's a
song about the American dream only existing in the
hearts and minds of immigrants until they live here
long enough for democracy to make them cold, cynical,
and indifferent, like all us native Americans. It don't
make much sense.

"Living In The Future" - I always liked phrases like
"jumpin' Jehoshaphat!" and "great Caesar's ghost!"
Also, I had this vision that if you drop a cat out of a
window, it's supposed to land on its feet. But if the
cat doesn't, does that mean that the cat had problems
at home? Did it have suicidal tendencies?
But the idea I had came from Parade magazine in the
Sunday papers. When I was growing up, it seemed like
once a year some guy would write a story about how this
is the way your city is going to look in 20 years. And
the only city that ever looked like that was Seattle,
and they built all that for the World's Fair. None of
the other places had monorails. Instead, everybody's
standing in soup lines or looking for jobs.

"People Puttin' People Down" - It's the only defense
some people have. As long as you got somebody to look
down on, you ain't on the bottom. So cold.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Don't know HOW I missed this post, but it's a BEAUT!

I'm a Prine fan, ever since Daddy Had A Hole In Arm Where All The Money Goes. I loved Phil Ochs, and Prine just sorta slipped into my stream in the early to mid 70's.

Never thought I'd ever see him, but, I got lucky and it's twice now, at www.strawberrymusic.com which we attend twice a year since '01.

Prine's a good muse, hoss. Well done.