Ryan Irelan

is building Mijingo and doing limited consulting.

John Prine & Roger Ebert

I don’t remember the first time I purposely listened to John Prine. I think it was through the same friend that introduced me to Harry Nilsson. It would make sense because I hold both artists in high, high regard. That friend of mine had (I haven’t seen him in 10 years) never told me to listen to something I didn’t end up liking.

I got to see John Prine play live back in August 2003 (thank you, world wide web, for allowing me to look that up) in North Carolina where he played with Nancy Griffith. We had third row seats at the Regency Park Ampitheater in Cary. Awesome show and a big music education.

After Prine was in the armed forces stationed in Germany, he went to Chicago where he spent his days as a postal worker and eventually got the guts to perform open mic sessions at local clubs at night. He became part of the folk revival in Chicago.

And who else was in Chicago at the same time? None other than Roger Ebert. In fact, in 1970 Ebert wrote the first review of John Prine. When Ebert wrote this review John Prine had only been performing for three months.

In a note before he reprinted the review on his blog, Ebert wrote:

Through no wisdom of my own but out of sheer blind luck, I walked into the Fifth Peg, a folk club on West Armitage, one night in 1970 and heard a mailman from Westchester singing. This was John Prine.

He sang his own songs. That night I heard “Sam Stone,” one of the great songs of the century. And “Angel from Montgomery.” And others. I wasn’t the music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, but I went to the office and wrote an article. And that, as fate decreed, was the first review Prine ever received.

After the show, Ebert had this to say:

He appears on stage with such modesty he almost seems to be backing into the spotlight. He sings rather quietly, and his guitar work is good, but he doesn’t show off. He starts slow. But after a song or two, even the drunks in the room begin to listen to his lyrics. And then he has you.

Read the review, pick up some Prine, and then tell me you’re not hooked, too.

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