The longtime friends traded verses on the 1971 classic, with Snider, grinning ear-to-ear, ceding the stage to his songwriting hero and mentor before eventually singing the second verse himself.
“John’s been really good to me my whole life,” Snider, who recorded several albums for Prine’s Oh Boy Records label earlier this century, told Rolling Stone in the spring. “He’s a really altruistic person. I love him.”
Despite becoming a pot-smoking anthem over the years, “Illegal Smile,” according to Prine, was originally written about his own private amusements. “I have to confess, the song was not about smokin’ dope,” Prine once said. “It was more about how, ever since I was a child, I had this view of the world where I can find myself smiling at stuff nobody else was smiling at. But it was such a good anthem for dope smokers that I didn’t want to stop every time I played it and make a disclaimer.”
Snider’s April 20th show at the Ryman comes in the midst of his extensive solo-acoustic tour supporting Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3. His latest album finds the 52-year-old singer-songwriter returning to his folk roots. “I’ve always thought of myself as like a Ramblin’ Jack Elliott type of guy,” Snider recently told Rolling Stone. “Anytime I deviate from that, I think of it as a deviation.”