Photo by Danny Clinch
John Prine Talks 'My Kentucky Home, Goodnight' & Why He Wants To Benefit Coal Miners
The GRAMMY-winning Americana figure opens up about his brand-new 7", how mining affected Muhlenberg County and why the Bluegrass State runs in his blood
GRAMMY-winning country/folk hero John Prine is widely known for his 1970 song, "Paradise," a wistful ode to a now-extinct Kentucky town that was ravaged by the strip mining industry. Almost 50 years later, he’s revived the song to benefit the very same coal miners and their families in Appalachia.
This version of "Paradise" rounds out Prine’s new 7" single My Kentucky Home, Goodnight, which arrived on May 11. The A-side is a cover of Stephen Foster's Civil War-era classic, on the reverse, a new version of "Paradise” with folk/bluegrass artist Tyler Childers. Sales will benefit the Appalachian Citizens' Law Center, which provides legal representation to miners and their families.
While "Paradise" is full of warnings about the ruinous effects of mining on small-town America, Prine remains sympathetic to the miners themselves. Not only did they put their bodies on the line, but many have fallen into financial hardship as the coal industry increasingly turns to dust.
"Those miners were the hardest-working people," he tells The Recording Academy. "I'll always respect what they did to provide for their families." These two modest recordings connect Prine meaningfully with his past — and help extend a hand to a struggling American region.
Read on for an interview with Prine about the new 7", how mining affected Muhlenberg County and why the Bluegrass State runs in his blood.
On "Paradise," you evoked youthful summers in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. What made you want to evoke the state again with "My Kentucky Home, Goodnight"?
I love this Stephen Foster song and I love Kentucky. I guess it runs in my blood. My dad had a great affection for his home state and passed that love to me and my brothers. I still have a lot of family there and try to get to the annual family reunion as often as I can.
"My Kentucky Home, Goodnight" traditionally kicks off the Kentucky Derby. Do you have memories of attending the Derby as a kid?
We never attended the Derby. I’m not sure if my family could have afforded to take everyone. My cousin Jackie always had a famous Derby party, but I was always on the road. One of these days, I definitely want to go. I always make a small bet with my brothers on Derby day just for the fun of it.
Your father, Bill, actually grew up in Paradise. Can you talk about him a little bit?
He was a larger-than-life character. He worked hard to provide for us and enjoyed his beer and country music. I think he might have believed that one day he would take us back to live in Kentucky. He would take us there on vacation every year and those car trips are still some of my best memories of growing up.
Proceeds from the single benefit Appalachian coal miners and their families. What makes you connect with their plight?
When you grow up knowing that your parents' home place no longer exists because of mining, it’s a hard reality to shake. A lot of families are affected by the declining industry now and others are left with black lung. Those miners were the hardest-working people and I’ll always respect what they did to provide for their families.
A brand-new version of "Paradise" rounds out Side B. Why do you think folks connect with that song so strongly?
It’s one of my songs that I really didn’t think would make it to the 21st century, like "Flag Decal." I guess the world really has not changed all that much. People are connected to wherever they call home and where their parents were born, and we still have environmental issues and industries that no longer provide good jobs for working-class people.
Why did you connect with Tyler Childers for this version of "Paradise"?
Tyler has opened a bunch of shows for us and we traveled together to New Zealand and Australia earlier this year. I think he is one of the finest young writers out there and he is a great fella to hang out with. He gets what country music is all about. Writing about the people and places you know best and the feelings that come from growing up in rural America.
You've got a lot on your plate these days — this new single, an international tour. What keeps you so busy and motivated?
I love that my audience has expanded. My fans from the 1970s are still with me and now they bring their kids and grandchildren. It gives me new energy to play my songs for a new audience. When we traveled to Australia and New Zealand at the beginning of the year, I got to play for fans that had waited 25 years to see me live. That was an amazing experience and has really given me motivation to write new songs and keep performing.
Photo: Christopher Polk/Getty Images
Recordings By Janet Jackson, Louis Armstrong, Odetta & More Inducted Into The National Recording Registry
Selections by Albert King, Labelle, Connie Smith, Nas, Jackson Browne, Pat Metheny, Kermit the Frog and others have also been marked for federal preservation
The Librarian of Congress Carla Haden has named 25 new inductees into the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. They include Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation 1814,” Louis Armstrong’s “When the Saints Go Marching In,” Labelle’s “Lady Marmalade,” Nas’ “Illmatic,” Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration,” Kermit the Frog’s “The Rainbow Connection” and more.
“The National Recording Registry will preserve our history through these vibrant recordings of music and voices that have reflected our humanity and shaped our culture from the past 143 years,” Hayden said in a statement. “We received about 900 public nominations this year for recordings to add to the registry, and we welcome the public’s input as the Library of Congress and its partners preserve the diverse sounds of history and culture.”
The National Recording Preservation Board is an advisory board consisting of professional organizations and experts who aim to preserve important recorded sounds. The Recording Academy is involved on a voting level. The 25 new entries bring the number of musical titles on the registry to 575; the entire sound collection includes nearly 3 million titles. Check out the full list of new inductees below:
National Recording Registry Selections for 2020
Edison’s “St. Louis tinfoil” recording (1878)
“Nikolina” — Hjalmar Peterson (1917) (single)
“Smyrneikos Balos” — Marika Papagika (1928) (single)
“When the Saints Go Marching In” — Louis Armstrong & his Orchestra (1938) (single)
Christmas Eve Broadcast--Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill (December 24, 1941)
“The Guiding Light” — Nov. 22, 1945
“Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues” — Odetta (1957) (album)
“Lord, Keep Me Day by Day” — Albertina Walker and the Caravans (1959) (single)
Roger Maris hits his 61st homerun (October 1, 1961)
“Aida” — Leontyne Price, et.al. (1962) (album)
“Once a Day” — Connie Smith (1964) (single)
“Born Under a Bad Sign” — Albert King (1967) (album)
“Free to Be…You & Me” — Marlo Thomas and Friends (1972) (album)
“The Harder They Come” — Jimmy Cliff (1972) (album)
“Lady Marmalade” — Labelle (1974) (single)
“Late for the Sky” — Jackson Browne (1974) (album)
“Bright Size Life” — Pat Metheny (1976) (album)
“The Rainbow Connection” — Kermit the Frog (1979) (single)
“Celebration” — Kool & the Gang (1980) (single)
“Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs” — Jessye Norman (1983) (album)
“Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814” — Janet Jackson (1989) (album)
“Partners” — Flaco Jiménez (1992) (album)
“Somewhere Over the Rainbow”/”What A Wonderful World” — Israel Kamakawiwo’ole (1993) (single)
“Illmatic” — Nas (1994) (album)
“This American Life: The Giant Pool of Money” (May 9, 2008)
Press Play At Home: Watch Dodie Perform A Morning-After Version Of "Four Tequilas Down"
In the latest episode of Press Play At Home, singer/songwriter dodie conjures a bleary last call in a hushed performance of "Four Tequilas Down"
"Four Tequilas Down" is as much a song as it is a memory—a half-remembered one. "Did you make your eyes blur?/So that in the dark, I'd look like her?" dodie, the song's writer and performer, asks. To almost anyone who's engaged in a buzzed rebound, that detail alone should elicit a wince of recognition.
Such is dodie's beyond-her-years mastery of her craft: Over a simple, spare chord progression, she can use an economy of words to twist the knife. "So just hold me like you mean it," dodie sings at the song's end. "We'll pretend because we need it."
In the latest episode of Press Play At Home, watch dodie stretch her songwriting muscles while conjuring a chemically altered Saturday night—and the Sunday morning full of regrets, too.
Check out dodie's hushed-yet-intense performance of "Four Tequilas Down" above and click here to enjoy more episodes of Press Play At Home.
Herbal Tea & White Sofas: Why Dead Poet Society's Jack Underkofler Has The "Least Picky" Backstage Rider
In the latest episode of Herbal Tea & White Sofas, learn why Dead Poet Society lead singer Jack Underkofler is committed to having the world's most reasonable backstage rider
For their part, Dead Poet Society have decided to take the opposite tack, as their lead singer, Jack Underkofler, attests in the below clip.
In the latest episode of Herbal Tea & White Sofas, learn why Dead Poet Society's Underkofler is committed to having the world's most reasonable backstage rider—including one ordinary pillow to nap on.
Check out the cheeky clip above and click here to enjoy more episodes of Herbal Tea & White Sofas.
Rob Thomas And Carlos Santana
Photo: Vince Bucci/AFP via Getty Images
GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Santana & Rob Thomas Self-Assuredly Win Record Of The Year For "Smooth" In 2000
In the newest episode of GRAMMY Rewind, watch Santana and Rob Thomas win Record Of The Year at the 42nd GRAMMY Awards for "Smooth," the unlikely smash-hit pairing of the classic rock legend and Matchbox Twenty leader
By all accounts, Santana's and Rob Thomas' 1999 megahit "Smooth" almost didn't happen. In its embryonic stages, Carlos Santana was skeptical of the tune; the AM-radio effect on Thomas's voice alone engendered its own smattering of arguments.
But in a quintessential lesson about why you should never, ever give up, "Smooth" became the second-biggest single of all time, second only to Chubby Checker's "The Twist." It also led to the 2000 GRAMMY Awards, where the unlikely pair won the GRAMMY for Record Of The Year.
In the newest episode of GRAMMY Rewind, revisit the moment 21 years ago when an unlikely gambit paid off in dividends, putting a feather in the cap of Matchbox Twenty's leader and landing a classic rocker back on the airwaves.
Check out the throwback GRAMMY moment above and click here to enjoy more episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.