Photo: Courtesy of Oh Boy Records
John Prine Gives Voice To The Personal Side Of The U.S. Opioid Epidemic
Life's ledger gives people cause for smiles and cause for tears, and both are on display in folk master John Prine's powerful music video for his song "Summer's End." It reminds us with its lyric "You don't have to be alone" that life is too precious not to reach out to people we know suffering from opioid addiction, whoever they are, even if that person is you.
On July 29, 2017 the fatal overdose of Max Barry hit home for many people including Prine . This past summer at Newport Folk Festival, Prine described to us how he brought the imagery in the lyrics of "Summer's End" to life, writing with his friend Pat McLaughlin. With imagery of a different kind, the simple words on screen — "Dedicated to Max" — at the conclusion of the music video are followed by others with healing, life-saving power.
The dedication is followed by, "If you or someone you know struggles with substance abuse, please seek help by contacting SAMHSA's 24-hour national helpline: 1-800-662-4357." SAMHSA is the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Those words were followed by a few more that were personal for us, "If you are in the music community, MusiCares offers an Addiction Recovery Program: www. musicares.org."
Max's mother, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry said her family made the choice to be transparent about their son's cause of death. "There are lots of statistics out there," she said, "but when it happens to your own child, it's not a statistic."
In her grief, she reached out, hoping to encourage others to reach out too, saying, "All I know is if there is a parent or a friend out there, who is seeing something in their own child or a friend, to make sure that they are reaching out to them because that is going to be the best way to get them into treatment."
Whatever other options people might think can help this crisis, including law enforcement, Barry's focus for her city and as a survivor of Max's loss is the word "Treatment." She wished Nashville's own resources were more robust and insisted the law enforcement approach to drugs is no substitute for getting people to qualified help when they need it.
The album which hosts "Summer's End" is The Tree Of Forgiveness. Released in April 2018, it is Prine's first album of all original songs since 2005's GRAMMY-winning Fair & Square. By the end of that month, it had reached No. 5 on the Billboard 200, his highest charting album yet. With a lot to smile about, he's chosen to turn his success to encourage us to protect ourselves from the opioid tragedy which damages more lives than just the ones who are most apparently taken.
"Treatment" is more than just a powerful word. Your efforts to let others know they have a home in our hearts, even if they're otherwise homeless, can make all the difference. Treatment is a powerful reality and we have seen it and helped it save lives.