John Prine’s ode to journalism

By Richard Lee

(Photo by Ron Baker)

If I had to find one thing in common about the musical body of work John Prine gave us, it would be the way each one of his songs evoked an emotion.

He made us laugh; he made us cry; he made us angry, and he made us smile (sometimes illegally).

“Dear Abby” was one of those songs that made us laugh. Each verse is written in the form of a letter to the well-known advice columnist, and the “Abby” in Prine’s song gives all of them the same advice: You really have nothing to complain about. Just be yourself and think positive.

You have no complaint

You are what you are and you ain’t what you ain’t

So listen up, buster, and listen up good

Stop wishing for bad luck and knocking on wood

Today, as I thought about John Prine, his life and his many songs, “Dear Abby” was the song that came to mind.

Since its inception in 1956, the Dear Abby advice column has been a way for people to turn to newspapers (now online news sites) for advice and guidance. In many ways, this is what is happening today. We turn to journalists to learn what is open and what is closed, how many people are infected with COVID-19, what we can do to protect ourselves, and what our health care experts and government leaders are advising.

Thank you, John Prine. May you rest in peace amid the angels from Montgomery, and don’t by shy about reminding folks up there that you were the singer/somgwriter who penned “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore.”

Richard Lee, executive director of the Jandoli Institute, is a former music journalist who often writes about the intersection of music and current events.

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