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Arlo Guthrie recalls 'simple' genius of John Prine

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Berkshire-based troubador Arlo Guthrie released the following statement on his Facebook page today regarding the death of singer-songwriter John Prine:

I've been sitting here for about an hour trying to write something about my friend, John Prine who died yesterday. Words don't come easily especially when you're talking about someone who was so good with words. Regular everyday words about everyday things came from him in a way that just doesn't happen very often.

We first met back in the early 1970s when I was waltzing around with Steve Goodman in Chicago. But, it wasn't until a little more than a decade later we really got to hang out. Sometime in the mid 1980s we began doing a lot of gigs together.

I remember standing off the side of the stage with my band, listening to John onstage. His songs were simple and straight forward, and after a few nights we knew them. We wanted to go out and play with him. And although it happened a few times here and there, most of the gigs we did together were separated by intermissions.

My buddy Pete Seeger used to say "Anyone can make a song complicated. It takes a real genius to keep it simple." John Prine was that kind of genius. And because he was able to keep it simple, we could learn his songs really quickly. They are still there in my mind today.

In 2005 John and I did our last gig together. It was in Denver at the Botanical Gardens. Nothing had changed. I was still listening to his gig as I'd done dozens of times from the side of the stage.

Neither of us appeared to be interested in uninteresting things. But, he wasn't offish. He was warm, considerate, and willing to put up with the never ending demands of being a nice guy. He showed real compassion with everyone he had to work with, and the crowds of folks who could relate to his heart through the songs he sang.

I got the feeling that he would've been the same guy no matter what he was doing — And didn't need to be onstage. He just found himself there and did the best he could with it. With a twinkle in his eyes, and a few kind words and observations, John was one of the good guys.

— Arlo Guthrie



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