"We're So Proud Of You" - Terri Hemmert Pays Tribute To John Prine

April 8, 2020
John Prine at the GRAMMY Awards

(Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

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I just sat down to post the song of the day and found out that John Prine died. How come this hurts so much? We knew he was sick. He's fought a lot of health problems, and he was of "the age". And he got that virus. How come this hurts so much!!

He's been in ICU for days, but he went from critical to serious. Serious doesn't sound so bad. Not compared to critical. How come this hurts so bad???!!! I'll tell you why.

There are a zillion very talented songwriters, but John Prine not only wrote some great songs, he went out of his way to mentor other songwriters who were more than likely over the moon that someone as great as John Prine gave them the time of day, and showed an interest in their work. John was a poet. He was a mail man. He lived in Nashville, Tennessee. Music City. The big time.

He came from Maywood. And never forgot it.

Related: The Top 7 Songs Written By John Prine

Nobody sang his songs better than he did. But everybody from Johnny Cash to Bette Midler did. Loretta Lynne did and so did Bettye Lavette. REM did and so did Ben Harper. His old friends Steve Goodman and Bonnie Koloc did. Heck, just about everybody did. He had a wicked sense of humor and then he'd make you weep like a baby with songs about Vietnam vets and old people feeling alone.

He was a Vietnam vet himself. But he didn't grow old and lonely. How can you be lonely when so many love you and your songs. What a quality human being. He learned his craft at the Old Town School Of Folk Music, and was a regular at The Earl of Old Town.

When I was working in the office at WGLD, fresh out of college, hoping to be a disc jockey, I remember the day the record company guy came in with a new album. The debut album by one of our local faves, John Prine. I hadn't even met him yet but I could't be more proud. He was local. And he was really good. A couple years later I ended up doing the all night shift at XRT. Talked on the phone to a lot of interesting people at 3 o'clock in the morning. Had some regular callers. My favorite was Billy Prine, John's brother. Billy, if you wondered if I remember those calls....oh yeah.

Billy is a great guy and I was always happy to get updates on what his brother was up to. Back then too, the way they figured out how much cash to lay on songwriters, once a year they would have us keep a log for a week and list the songwriter of every song we played. Then they would come up with an equation and cut checks. $$$$$.

I know I'm not the only XRT DJ that made sure that one week a year we'd give a lot of spins to John Prine, Steve Goodman, Pops Staples, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Rick Nielson, Corky Siegel. The checks were in the mail. But one of the most unforgettable moments of my life was meeting John backstage, sometime in the 1970's and I think Waylon Jennings was there. But I was so excited to meet my hero finally. And he said something to the effect of his idea of a good night in Chicago was playing a set at the Earl Of Old Town, picking up a bag of sliders from the White Castle, taking them home and listening to Terri Hemmert on XRT till the sun came up.

My heart almost jumped out of my chest. He was that kind. And thoughtful. And funny. We lost a great one. Not just a talented man, but a good man. Yeah he made the big time in Nashville, but John, Chicago never forgot you. And you never forgot where you came from. We are so proud of you.

God bless you, John Prine. You and your brother Billy and your wife and kids. God bless you all.

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