May 012020

‘The Best Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

john prine covers

Are there any bad John Prine covers?

I mean, sure, there are bad covers of anyone worth covering. But it struck me going through the many candidates for this list that they mostly ranged from transcendent on the high end to pretty good on the low. “Pretty good” was about as bad as it got! I don’t think you could say that for anyone else we’ve featured in this series.

It’s not just that the songs are great (though that helps). Beatles songs are great too, and lord knows there are plenty of terrible Beatles covers. I think maybe it’s that the people who cover him really care. The reverence the music community holds for Prine far outweighs his modest commercial success. He didn’t have any big hits under his own name. A few more when his songs were performed by other people – who we’ll get to – but even there, not that many. Not enough to make him as important figure as he was, and still remains, in the songwriting community.

The musicians who know John Prine’s music love John Prine’s music. You can hear that adoration in the covers. They’re not necessarily reverent to his original arrangements, but they are always reverent to the man himself.

The list begins on Page 2.

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  7 Responses to “The Best John Prine Covers Ever”

Comments (7)
  1. Eddi Reader’s version of ‘Hello In There’ is really great, I think.

  2. Listened to all John prine songs luv them all

  3. Are you collecting John Prine covers from not so well known artists for a future post?

  4. That disappoints that Johnny Cash didn’t know John Prine. If you are gonna borrow someone’s art you really should know credit with authenticity. Also Phil King– obscure music man strikes again! There are some not prime time players in the first 3 installments/pages of this series. Cmon srsly there are no Taylor Swifts or Eddie Vedders here! I’m sure Youtube is full of unsigned folks covering Prine songs.

    • Hi I like to put together music collections (I make no money off of it share it with a few friends). I am working on a collection honoring John Prine, his buddy Steve Goodman, and Michael Smith. So I am researching covers too as part of this endeavor. I came across a clip of John being interviewed the other day, and he spoke about Johnny Cash’s cover of Sam Stone. Johnny had a conversation with John P., and indicated that he loved the song. But that he was troubled by the line “Jesus Christ died for nothing I suppose,” and John P. responded politely that the line was really the core of the song. But John also said to the interviewer, “hey it was Johnny Cash,” suggesting that he was not going to push it with Johnny because Johnny was, well, Johnny Cash. If you listen to the cover, Johnny did change that line, and though I respect Johnny’s religious leanings, really I agree with John P. that the line about Jesus just demonstrates the hopelessness of Sam Stone’s state of mind and his entire being. The line is really kind of essential. So Johnny did have some interaction with John P. about the song, and likely about more than that, and it is somewhat unfortunate that Johnny incorrectly stated John’s last name at the end of the cover. Not defending Johnny Cash, but I think it was just an honest mistake.

      • Cash knew him. He shared once that he listened to Prine when he needed inspiration. It may have been a slip of the tongue. I’m sure Cash felt badly later.

  5. You missed out on Jeffrey Foucault. He recorded an entire (brilliant) album of all Prine covers called Shoot The Moon Right Between The Eyes.

    It’s a beauty… Highlights include the most heartbreaking Mexican Home… A stunning One Red Rose… And a superb That’s The Way That The World Goes Round.

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