If you ever need a dose of humbleness, then watching an iconic frontman like Robert Plant positively quiver in the shadow of another songwriter should fit the bill. Plant, the legendary frontman of Led Zeppelin, is widely regarded as one of the finest songwriters of his generation. But we’re sure he won’t mind us saying that, in comparison to the wondrous John Prine, his contribution leans towards the meagre.
Though not nearly as famous as Plant’s monster group, Led Zeppelin, Prine’s influence can be felt across the entire musical landscape. His reverence about the mundane and every day is only comparable to the sardonic humour he infected all of his songs with. A deeply layered songwriter, what Prine did with his songs was create universal expressions and connective feelings that can feel both singular and a part of a global collective.
If we needed to establish the huge presence of John Prine further, then we’ll just point you to the great Bill Murray. The comedian was struggling with depression when, under the advice of writer Hunter S Thompson, he began listening to the music of Prine. The Fear and Loathing in 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’. The song gave Murray a wry smile and allowed him to colour his sadness a single shade lighter with Prine’s words ringing in his ears. Murray 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.”
The same can be said for plenty of other artists too. Prine has touched many kindred souls, and Robert Plant is another one of them. Sending a video across the pond when Prine was being inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, the Led Zeppelin man provided his favourite John Prine song as part of the video.
“Your work is extraordinary,” Plant continued to the camera. “A vast endearing treasury, a beacon of light in these ever weirder times. Sometimes it seems like you’re writing for all of us, which in fact, you probably are. Today, I am sure that you wrote this one for me. In fact, I don’t know if you’ve been following me around, but today’s favourite John Prine song, for me, it’s called ‘Far From Me’.”
Listen to that shining track below.