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Inside The 50th Annual Songwriters Hall Of Fame with John Prine and more

on June 14, 2019 No comments
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By Jem Aswad June 13, 2019

Keith Sykes, Bonnie Raitt and John Prine performing “Paradise” at “Inspired by John Prine,” a tribute concert at New York’s Public Arts, June 12, 2019

John Prine is, in many ways, the ultimate songwriter’s songwriter. Revered by his peers and his ride-or-die fans, over the past five decades he’s written many brilliant songs with incisive melodies and tongue-twisting (and brain-twisting) lyrics that have been covered by artists ranging from Bonnie Raitt, Johnny Cash and John Denver to My Morning Jacket and Jason Isbell. Yet he’s never had a blockbuster hit single himself and could walk down the street in virtually any city in the world — except Nashville — without creating a ruckus, even though he’s written such classics as “Angel From Montgomery,” “Paradise,” “Sam Stone,” “That’s the Way the World Goes ‘Round” and the Vietnam-war lament “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore.” (Social consciousness is a big part of Prine’s music: He sounded off to Variety last month about recent abortion laws in the South.)

The bard’s influence and rabid following were nowhere more in evidence than at “Inspired by John Prine,” a tribute concert at New York’s Public Arts Wednesday night, on the eve of his much-deserved induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Stephen Colbert, Norah Jones, Sara Bareilles, Natalie Merchant, Nathaniel Rateliff, the Antibalas horn section and others performed his songs, and the evening was capped with Prine himself, accompanied by Raitt and his longtime friend and collaborator Keith Sykes performing “Paradise.” (Unfortunately, scheduled performer Sturgill Simpson had a last-minute conflict.)

The concert was presented by Prine’s publisher, Downtown Music, and proceeds went to 826NYC, the New York chapter of the non-profit organization dedicated to developing the writing skills of young people.

The concert was acoustic — there was nary a drum kit on the stage — but the set was imaginatively paced. The lyrics to one song were delivered as a poetry reading; the Antibalas horns, consisting of two saxes, two trumpets and a trombone, served up a rousing Dixieland-style rendition of “In Spite of Ourselves” and led nearly the entire audience in a singalong on the closing chorus; the constantly shifting performers — each played just one song — ensured that things stayed lively.

Colbert, who’d come straight from taping “The Late Show,” poked fun at his suit and “ready-for-TV makeup” and performed “How Lucky,” accompanied (rather shakily) on guitar by CBS News’ John Dickerson. Both of them spoke of courting their college girlfriends — now their wives — with Prine’s music. “So John Prine is responsible for two marriages!” Colbert marveled. “Even his own!”

Elsewhere, Bareilles opened the show with a moving take on “Angel From Montgomery,” Norah Jones and Richard Julian performed a stellar version of “That’s the Way the World Goes ‘Round,” Merchant sang a somber “Hello in There,” Rateliff delivered a stately “Sam Stone,” and the War & Treaty made a dazzling display of vocal prowess.

And while any concert with these performers and those songs is going to be special, what was perhaps most remarkable about this one was how chill it all was. Bareilles, who’d performed on national television on the Tonys on Sunday night, was spotted walking casually down the sidewalk on her way to the show; Colbert was just hanging out in the crowd after he performed, taking selfies and joking with fans; Prine himself did not watch the show from the VIP area upstairs but instead sat atop one of the booths lining the wall halfway back the venue, with Raitt on one side and Fiona, his wife, on the other, graciously greeting well-wishers throughout the show and singing along on several occasions.

Keith Sykes, Bonnie Raitt and John Prine performing “Paradise” at “Inspired by John Prine,” a tribute concert at New York’s Public Arts, June 12, 2019 © Kevin Scanlon

Before he, Raitt and Sykes launched into the closing song, Prine, while clearly moved by the evening, defined it with a perfect combination of his trademark humor and self-deprecation: “It’s kinda like singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to yourself,” he laughed.

Source: © Copyright Variety

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On this Memorial Day, I'd like to share the lyrics to my song "A SOLDIER AT WAR", dedicated to all the soldiers from all the wars who DIDN'T die, all those who have been living with the internal scars of their war experience. My heart goes out to you all, and I certainly do appreciate your service to our country. Is this an "anti-war song"...YES! And I dedicate these lyrics to the great Ron Kovic, author of "Born On The Fourth Of July".

A SOLDIER AT WAR

VERSE 1:
I’m a soldier at war.
I know you’ve seen my face before.
I am Red, White, and Blue.
I am black and brown and yellow too.
I have killed and I have died,
All alone and damaged deep inside.
And the child I used to be,
Was sacrificed for some insanity.

VERSE 2:
Left a boy, now half a man,
My innocence was lost in a foreign land.
I fought so hard and I fought so long,
I fought for my country, right or wrong.
In the eye of the slaughter,
No Star Spangled Banner did I see.
There is blood on the water,
It’s flowing like the blood inside of me.

VERSE 3:
In smoke-fill rooms, the Men Of Might
Will send your son somewhere to fight.
And I am one of many more,
Just pawns in a Holy War.

BRIDGE:
In a field where the food used to grow,
There’s a murder of crows.

VERSE 4
Now the war is dead and gone,
But the battle goes on and on.
And the dream that used to be
Is buried so deep inside of me.
I believed what I was told,
But all that glitters is not gold.
I still see my brother’s hand…..
Why he died, I’ll never understand.

VERSE 5….REPRISE:
I’m a soldier at war.
I know you’ve seen my face before.
Just a name and a loaded gun,
One more lost, forsaken son.
I’m a soldier at war.
I’m a soldier at war….
Just a soldier at war.
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1 day ago

From BRHQ -- Today is release day for a brand-new 2-CD set featuring Four Classic John Raitt Albums plus Bonus Tracks on Stage Door Records! More information below and to order, please visit:
bit.ly/3aGxsVt (Domestic shipping within the U.S.)
amzn.to/2UUJZ0O (Imported from the UK)
#johnraitt #bonnieraitt #stagedoorrecords #broadway
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2 weeks ago

So sad to mark the passing of Sweet Pea Atkinson, whose backup vocals on all my GRAMMY-winning albums and so many others' added so much grit and soul. He was a real character--as delightful as he was sweet under that gruff exterior, and truly and one of the greatest soul singers I've ever heard. We will miss him dearly and send our condolences to his family. #ripsweetpea ... See MoreSee Less

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