BIG NEWS: John Prine, a singer-songwriter aged 71 with no hits at all since his career launched in 1971, is today number 1 on iTunes and on Amazon.com.
What???? Well, to be true, Prine wrote a song called “Hello in There” that appeared on Bette Midler’s 1972 debut, “The Divine Miss M.” And “Angel from Montgomery” has been covered by so many (Bonnie Raitt, Carly Simon, et al) that Prine may have lived on it all these years. But otherwise, he was a cult favorite, like Ry Cooder, Kenny Rankin or Michael Fremer. I mean, as time went on, John Prine just disappeared into the coffee house circuit.
Prine’s album is called “Tree of Forgiveness” and it was released last April. It sold only 22,500 copies through this past Thursday.
One reason for his sudden ascent to number 1 today might be a piece by Anthony Mason on “CBS Sunday Morning” that ran this morning. We won’t know for a day or two what Mason’s piece did to propel Prine to number 1.
And now we wonder: Will “Tree of Forgiveness” be a surprise Grammy nominee? It seems so: the record biz trade winds have suddenly turned in his favor!
Why is this late fame happening? Who knows? He issues records on his own label, called “Oh Boy.” Is “Tree of Forgiveness” his best album? It only got a 77 on Metacritic. He probably has better records on his resume. But this is the one that will mark his legacy.
According to Wikipedia, Prine has never released a solo single. He’s appeared as a guest artist on two charting singles in 47 years. He does have 3 Grammy Awards– two for Best Contemporary Folk Album and one for Lifetime Achievement/Special Merit. He’s recently been nominated for induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Mostly, what comes through on “Tree” is something authentic, organic, and totally original. In the current music scene, this must be a shock to the ears of many who’ve been spoonfed crap for the last two decades. So we celebrate John Prine. Magic is still possible.