Image: Ron Baker. CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5685417
Not all who contribute to the pages of Salut! Live and Salut! are people I have met. Renata Baraldi, author of a supremely moving coronavirus-related essay from Lombardy, is known to me only on social media, where we have a mutual acquaintance and demonstrate similar musical tastes.
Stan Wilson is American and drops by here, and at Facebook, to exchange thoughts on music. He alerted me to news of John Prine falling victim to Covid-19 and, at that time, fighting for his life in hospital. I awoke today to another alert from Stan, the one I feared. John died on Tuesday at the Vanderbilt University medical centre in Tennessee. He was 73.
And Stan sent me these words of tribute and sadness ...
I am bereft. I did not share this with you until things took the awful turn that they have now.
I subscribe to Spotify and at the end of each year they compute your usage over the last year and give you your stats.
The statistic on artists I most listened to was John Prine. I have very eclectic musical tastes but over the years John Prine was a touchstone I returned to. The quality in his art never declined.
Even with the greats (Dylan etc), they would have an off album or two. Then a great would somehow be able to come up with something great again.
Over here on E Street, we are crushed by the loss of John Prine. John and I were "New Dylans" together in the early 70s and he was never anything but the lovliest guy in the world. A true national treasure and a songwriter for the ages. We send our love and prayers to his family.— Bruce Springsteen (@springsteen) April 8, 2020
For me, Prine was an artist who never really had those valleys. He is one of very few (maybe Neil Young) where every release had something up to the standard of their best. I saw him in concert again a couple of years ago.
He had survived two cancers and surgeries that removed part of his neck and most of a lung.
He sang in a raspy croak but he sang beautifully.
I have been recovering from a cancer myself this past year.
That is why I didn't take up a couple of invitations from, you, Colin, to weigh in on what ever new musical comparison you might be considering on your site. I was having trouble organising my thoughts for that, although I enjoy those posts.
I am doing well ...right now just have to go for check up tests every six months.
I share this with you because my plans for my first concert when I would be able was to see John Prine once more. I was looking to the point when his tour headed to the North-east of the US when the pandemic froze all plans.
I think the clip I have chosen is an appropriate song for these times.
It is a duet from a couple of years ago that never aired.
The other guy is a "chat" show host as you would say in the US, Stephen Colbert. The reference to "Happy Enchilada" is a reference to a story John liked to tell.
He said a women came up to him and asked him if he would be singing his "Happy Enchilada " song. Happy enchilada? Happy enchilada? "What song is that?" he asked. "You know," she said. "Happy Enchilada and you think you're gonna drown."
She had misheard "half an inch of water and you think you are gonna drown". From this song. Host Colbert's intro to the song is almost impossibly ironic or prescient.
In times when petty prejudices and venal motives drive so many of us, John Prine was a human being who made me proud to be of the same species.
In a touching postscript, Stan offered warm wishes of health and encouragement to me, a stranger, and my family and wrote: I hesitate to send this to a writer. I let it pour out. I didn't peruse it for grammar or form but it's getting late here. I thought I'd write to you as you seem to empathise with artists. Listen to the song. Prine always had something apropos to say ....