Hey, John, I hope you get to kiss that girl in Heaven

First thing this morning I poured myself a really strong Irish coffee and wept quietly all alone over all the world’s losses due to the coronavirus as my wife Cindie was outside walking the dog.

Thankfully, not all of us have gotten sick, but this disease has touched everyone on the planet in one way or another — rich and famous, poor and unknown. It’s a pandemic, folks, and that’s how it goes. In case you haven’t noticed, the grim reaper is walking among us. I just couldn’t stay in that dark frame of mind, so, I pulled my face up from my hands and wiped away my tears, determined to make this a brighter day by writing this column for the newspaper’s website.

Tuesday, April 7 the virus claimed singer/songwriter John Prine, 74. Prine, once a singing mailman, recently completed a European tour. Apparently he may have contracted the virus from his wife and manager Fiona. He was hospitalized six days after she announced her infection. I can’t even imagine how she feels today.

After slugging down a few big gulps, I put on John Prine’s eponymous first album from 1971, swept away by a tall, fast moving tsunami of wonderful memories from my youth. I never played Prine’s songs. Like him, I preferred to play my own stuff. But many of my musician friends covered his material. I can hear them all now.

You see, Prine was a storyteller, as good as any of the Texas songsmiths, and the characters who inhabit his songs seem as real as real can be.

He give us “Sam Stone” (“There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes”), that hippy dude with the “Illegal Smile” (“Won’t you please tell the man I didn’t kill anyone/No, I’m just tryin’ to have me some fun”), the broken hearted man in “Far From Me” (“Ain’t it funny how an old broken bottle/Looks just like a diamond ring”), a view of the world from a woman’s point of view with “Angel From Montgomery” (“Make me an angel that flies from Montgomery/Make me a poster of an old rodeo/Just give me one thing that I can hold on to/To believe in this living is just a hard way to go,”), and “Donald and Lydia,” the couple that “made love from 10 miles away.”

He also gave us a bit of social commentary with “Spanish Pipedream,” (“Blow up your TV, throw away your paper/Go to the country, build you a home/Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches/Try an find Jesus on your own”), “Hello In There,” (“Ya’ know that old trees just grow stronger/And old rivers grow wilder ev’ry day/Old people just grow lonesome/ Waiting for someone to say, “Hello in there, hello”), “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore” (“But your flag decal won’t get you into Heaven any more/They’re already overcrowded from your dirty little war/Now Jesus don’t like killin’ no matter what the reason’s for/And your flag decal won’t get you into Heaven any more”), “Paradise” (“And daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County/Down by the Green River where Paradise lay/Well, I’m sorry my son, but you’re too late in asking/Mister Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away”).

This coronavirus has taken so much from us. We know what we have to do to slow this thing down. Please do your part. The lives you save could surely belong to those you love. Aren’t they worth the effort?

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