Austin City Limits kicks off its latest season on Saturday, October 3rd, with a career-spanning tribute to John Prine, who died of complications related to Covid-19 this past April. The episode, which covers Prine’s ACL debut in 1978 all the way to his most recent appearance in 2018, features the songwriter’s classic songs over his eight appearances on the show, along with a newly recorded spoken introduction from Jason Isbell, one of Prine’s greatest admirers.
“John loved to play Austin City Limits and was very proud to have made so many appearances over the years,” said Prine’s widow Fiona Prine.
“Very few artists appeared on ACL more times than John Prine,” added ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “It was a mutual love affair: he loved doing the show, and we loved having him.”
In this exclusive preview of Saturday night’s tribute, Prine delivers a humorous solo-acoustic rendition from 1992 of “Jesus: The Missing Years.” The closing track to his 1991 album The Missing Years, it’s a surrealist account of what Jesus Christ might have done during the years of his life unaccounted for in history.
“He discovered the Beatles/And he recorded with the Stones,” Prine sings in the talking blues reminiscent of early Dylan, “Once he even opened up a three-way package in Southern California for old George Jones.”
Prine told Rolling Stone a few years ago that he was at first afraid to play the song. “I thought they were going to look at me and say, ‘You’ve done it. You’ve crossed the line. You need the straitjacket.’ But if I let it sit for a couple weeks and it still affects me, it’s something I would like to hear somebody say, then I figure, my instinct is as good as a normal person.”