John Prine, Songs from the Heart

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John Prine

It has been 30 years since John Prine left Chicago to move to Nashville, Tn.

I wondered if Prine’s songwriting had changed now that he has spent almost half his life in Music City. He’s seen the Nashville commercial landscape change from Kenny Rogers to Garth Brooks to whatever that pop sound is today.

“Actually my songwriting changed right after the second record (1972’s “Diamonds in the Rough”),” Prine said. “So much stuff happened in such a short time that it’s hard for me to remember that guy.

“I remember all the friends I had and the stuff I did, but to remember the guy that sat in this room and wrote those songs…” and Prine’s voice drifted off into another place……….

Prine is coming home for benefit shows May 13 and 15 at his alma mater Proviso East High School, 807 1st Ave. in Maywood. The shows are benefits for the Maywood Fine Arts Association and will be filmed for a documentary ($30 tickets here).

Prine continued, “…Its funny, once you sign a contract and go to North Dakota or Hawaii and people know you from a record that you made, it’s a whole different existence. And I used to fight it.

“I’d try to get back home to Maywood or Melrose Park and just become John Prine, the ex-mailman. I wanted to stay connected. But it slips away from you. You gain something and you lose something. I miss that.

“I’m not ungrateful for anything that happened once (Steve) Goodman brought (Kris) Kristofferson over (to the Earl of Old Town, where Prine was discovered in 1971). Eveything happened so fast, signing with Atlantic and all that. I almost wish I had a couple more years. I wasn’t busting to get a record deal.

“I quit the post office and slept all week. I worked Thursday, Friday, Saturday (at Chicago clubs like the Fifth Peg and the Earl). I thought, ‘I get paid for singing? This is amazing!’ The whole thing happened with the record (1971’s self-titled debut) and it changed all the rules.”

During this week’s filming Prine will lead a crew around his home turf similar to what he did in 1980 on WTTW-TV’s “Soundstage.”

Prine was in a Maywood gang called The Parts Brothers, but most of his compatriots are not available for comment.

“I never understood what it was short for,” Prine said with a sense of wonder. “It was supposed to be short for some Italian word. It was created in defense of the other gang. There was only one other gang in Maywood. We set it up to patrol our border. If somebody was talking about robbing something or there was going to be a big fight, somehow I would manage to not be there. It was a great group of guys, but there’s probably not too many of them left.”

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