In the course of his 50-year career, John Prine influenced everyone from Bob Dylan to Bon Iver, Kacey Musgraves, Swamp Dogg, and others.
The influence of Prine, who died last week from complications related to COVID-19, is clear in the latest installment of our In My Room series. We asked some of our favorite artists (and some of Prine’s) to play one of his classics. They didn’t disappoint. Fellow Chicagoan Jeff Tweedy plays “Donald and Lydia,” the 1971 ballad Prine wrote on his mail route, about two people that “made love from 10 miles away.” Ashley McBryde performs a mini set that includes a mournful take on “That’s the Way the World Goes Round” and a deeply moving “Mexican Home,” the song where Prine addressed the death of his father. (McBryde becomes emotional at one point, and needs to stop herself). Todd Snider plays the underrated “It’s a Big Old Goofy World.” Jim James puts his own stamp on the songs “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness,” “Spanish Pipedream,” and “Paradise.” Margo Price and Jeremy Ivey play a gospel version of “All the Best” in their family home.
Prine made a major impression on these artists. In his memoir, Tweedy said Prine was an early songwriting influence on him, for “writing songs that weren’t that far removed from our own experiences.” In 2017, Ashley McBryde played at a Prine family reunion in Kentucky and drank whiskey with her songwriting hero. Prine signed Todd Snider to his Oh Boy Records label in the Nineties, and they were performing together as recently as last year. Jim James once performed on Letterman with Prine, and Price and Ivey were close friends with the Prine family, sometimes having dinner at Prine’s Nashville home.