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(Credit: Alamy/Far Out)


How Hunter S. Thompson and John Prine helped Bill Murray battle depression


If Hunter S. Thomspon, the legendary Gonzo journalist and the anarchic novelist extraordinaire, offers you advice, then you had better take it. That is, of course, because the chances are high that it is about to be some of the most important and drastically potent advice you’ll ever be given — or at least a decent cocktail to remember. Bill Murray went to the good doctor Thompson after struggling with his own mental health, and the writer’s advice to explore the beautifully painful world of singer John Prine helped pull Murray out of the murky depths of depression.

The iconic writer, Thompson, only deals in truths, facts and universal absolutes. It meant his advice, painful or otherwise, could prove valuable to anyone who heard it. Directions from Thompson should be specially adhered to when figuring out how to sedate a full-grown elephant or blow up a small town. But, all things considered, you still maybe wouldn’t expect him to offer up many notions on how best to pull yourself from a bout of depression — and he did just that when his friend Bill Murray turned to him for advice.

In this footage below, acclaimed comedian and wonderful actor Bill Murray shares the advice Thomspon shared with him and the song which helped him find his humour again. The video, which was shot in support of John Prine’s first album in years, The Tree of Forgiveness, sees Murray detail Hunter’s advice about the Prine song that finally got him to change his mood. Murray suggests that following an episode of what he describes as “not clinical depression” but more being a “real bummer to be around”, Thompson offered him some sage advice on how to proceed and get his life back on the track he desired.

The advice is delivered to us through Murray and his pretty impeccable impression of Thompson. With his persona, Murray embodies the writer to say that he should go to John Prine and the musician’s melancholy sense of humour for comic relief from the banalities of modern living. The Fear and Loathing Las Vegas writer pointed toward Prine’s seminal record Great Days as a way out of reality — a dangerous move considering the double greatest hits album is widely considered one of the saddest records of all time.

Featuring tracks like ‘Hello in There’ and ‘Sam Stone’ plus many other tearjerkers in the mammoth release, it was by chance luck or divinity that, instead, Murray settled on the song ‘Linda Goes to Mars’. He says in the film; it’s the moment he said “huh” and shrugs his shoulders.

The track is a tongue-in-cheek and upbeat moment of country humour mixed with a dancefloor doozy’s Swingtime pace. The song’s theme lands on a dimwitted husband who assumes his wife’s gormless expression as proof of life on Mars rather than a lack of interest in him.

The story Murray tells as he thumbs through the book John Prine Beyond Words is one of touching veracity and authenticity. Murray clearly has a very special place in his heart for Prine. After trying to have Prine flown in for the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor ceremony, Murray told the New York Post: “John Prine can make you laugh like no else can make you laugh.”

He made Bill Murray laugh enough with his song ‘Linda Goes to Mars’ to pull him from a bout of poor mental health, and that is most definitely good enough for us. Sadly, John Prine died last year following complications from COVID-19. He was one of many countless and unwelcomed passing this year and one that will never be forgotten.