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John Prine Songs We Love

Mark Zaleski
AP Photo
Iris DeMent hugs John Prine after Prine presented her with the lifetime achievement trailblazer award during the Americana Honors and Awards show Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn.

As you've probably heard, singer-songwriter John Prine passed away Tuesday, after being critically ill with COVID-19.

Since his first album was released in 1971, Prine's gentle humor and way with words have been an inspiration to many. Some members of IPR's staff each picked a favorite John Prine song to share.

It was hard to pick just one! Rest in peace, John.


"'Paradise' has to be my favorite John Prine song. It's written out of his lived experience. It has a wonderfully singable chorus and a strong environmental message.  The wordplay is not as flashy as some of his songs, but the decription of a town that's been 'remembered so many times that my memories are worn' is priceless. John's soul should be rolling on up to that Rochester dam just about now."  -Karen Impola, Folk Tree Host

Angel From Montgomery

"I have to go with a pretty obvious choice here - 'Angel From Montgomery.' It's just an amazing expression of desire, yearning and regret. It's a masterpiece, contains some brilliant lines and is one of his most covered tunes. I believe Bonnie Raitt referred to it as one of the most important songs she's ever recorded."  -Al Schares, Music Director

Sam Stone  

"Prine’s first album remains one of the most impressive debuts ever.  'Sam Stone,' despite its bleak subject matter, is a great sing-along and says so much."  -Mark Simmet, Studio One Host

In Spite Of Ourselves (Feat. Iris DeMent)  

"It's an incredibly sweet song that's known for its off-color lyrics, which are so important to the song. It's easy to find yourself laughing along, then pausing and saying, 'yeah, that's the kind of love I want.'"  -Tony Dehner, Studio One Host

Illegal Smile  

"'Illegal Smile' is a rousing sing-a-long, laced with Prine's signature gritty, down-to-earth narrative in his lyrics. The track is a good reminder to take things easy when you're down on your luck, a message that resonates in trying times such as these."  -Cecilia Mitchell, Studio One Host

Knocking On Your Screen Door

"We shouldn't physically drop in on neighbors right now, but we should definitely check in on them. Nobody made us feel why more than John Prine. In his song 'Knocking On Your Screen Door,' an older man who 'once had a family' could 'use some help here with a can of pork and beans.' The man is 'thinking it's your business, but you don't got to answer.' John Prine would have answered, every time."  -Barney Sherman, Classical Host

All The Best

"I can't really pick a favorite... 'Lake Marie,' 'Paradise,' 'Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)'... there's just too many. But I find 'All The Best' to be a perfect song, and I can't pick up a guitar and not play it."  -Clay Masters, Morning Edition Host

Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore

"Flag Decal is one of the best protest songs ever penned and certainly one of my favorites. It’s stayed just as relevant and biting in the 21st century as it was during the Vietnam Era. Only Prine could write such an upbeat and humorous song about the damage that empty patriotism can do to one’s soul."  -Dallas Tuttle, IT Specialist 

Karen Impola is the host of IPR's The Folk Tree
Al Schares is IPR's Music Program Director
Mark Simmet is a Senior Producer and Studio One Host
Tony Dehner is an award-winning Senior Music Producer, host and writer for Iowa Public Radio Studio One. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Northern Iowa. Dehner has worked for over two decades bringing the best AAA music to IPR's audience, and is a passionate believer in the Iowa music scene — after all, every musician was a “local musician” at the beginning of their career!
Cece Mitchell is an award-winning Music Producer, host and writer for Iowa Public Radio Studio One. She holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Northern Iowa. Mitchell has worked for over five years to bring the best AAA music to IPR's audience, and is always hunting for the hidden gems in the Iowa music scene that you should know about!
Barney Sherman is a Senior Music Producer and Classical Music Host
Clay Masters is the senior politics reporter for MPR News.