It’s been 1,189 days since John Prine left us, but who’s counting…
John Prine had a unique influence on country music throughout his life. Many other artists put their stamp on the genre through hits that others sonically chased, but John’s presence is felt in a deeper, less obvious way.
His focus on seemingly simple but in actuality complex songwriting inspired generations of artists to forgo trying to become the next so-and-so and just make something quality. From Jason Isbell and Tyler Childers, Sturgill Simpson to Kacey Musgraves, the heart of John Prine is still alive and well.
But where did John get the inspiration for his songs? Turns out, it’s nothing more than everyday life.
A vintage video surfaced of Prine and a reporter driving around and discussing his music, and while on that drive, they cross an intersection where he witnessed something that later became a song. This video was part of the John Prine Live On Soundstage 1980 DVD released in 2007.
“The Accident (Things Could Be Worse)” is a story of car crash that touches on luck, guilt, and perspective in a uniquely human way, but it turns out there was an actual accident (in his hometown of Maywood, Illinois) that was the spark for the story.
Here’s how John recalled it.
“This corner up here, you know that song the accident? This is it. You have arrived. How’s it go? I can never remember the words to my songs unless I start them out from the beginning. This is third and this is Green…
Last night I saw an accident on the corner of third and Green. Two cars collided and I got excited just being part of that scene. It was Mrs. Tom Walker and her beautiful daughter, Pamela.
Her name wasn’t Pamela it was Connie, they’re over there but Pamela sounds better when you’re writing a song.
Mrs. Tom Walker and her beautiful daughter, Pamela, was driving the car. They got hit by a man in a light blue sedan who had obviously been to a bar.
You know the chorus don’t you? They could have run into that tree or that one, or any of these… This lady lives on the corner of third and green and she doesn’t even know it. This is more famous than the Grand Canyon!”
What a guy. The world sure isn’t the same without him.
Here’s the video of the short interview clip along with a live performance of the song.
And here’s the studio version from his 1973 album, Sweet Revenge.