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John Prine: In Spite of Himself (American Music)

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With a range that spans the lyrical, heartfelt songs “ Angel from Montgomery,” “ Sam Stone,” and “ Paradise” to the classic country music parody “ You Never Even Called Me by My Name,” John Prine is a songwriter’s songwriter. Across five decades, Prine has created critically acclaimed albums—John Prine (one of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time), Bruised Orang With a range that spans the lyrical, heartfelt songs “ Angel from Montgomery,” “ Sam Stone,” and “ Paradise” to the classic country music parody “ You Never Even Called Me by My Name,” John Prine is a songwriter’s songwriter. Across five decades, Prine has created critically acclaimed albums—John Prine (one of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time), Bruised Orange, and The Missing Years—and earned many honors, including two Grammy Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting from the Americana Music Association, and induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. His songs have been covered by scores of artists, from Johnny Cash and Miranda Lambert to Bette Midler and 10,000 Maniacs, and have influenced everyone from Roger McGuinn to Kacey Musgraves. Hailed in his early years as the “ new Dylan,” Prine still counts Bob Dylan among his most enthusiastic fans.In John Prine, Eddie Huffman traces the long arc of Prine’s musical career, beginning with his early, seemingly effortless successes, which led paradoxically not to stardom but to a rich and varied career writing songs that other people have made famous. He recounts the stories, many of them humorous, behind Prine’s best-known songs and discusses all of Prine’s albums as he explores the brilliant records and the ill-advised side trips, the underappreciated gems and the hard-earned comebacks that led Prine to found his own successful record label, Oh Boy Records. This thorough, entertaining treatment gives John Prine his due as one of the most influential songwriters of his generation.


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With a range that spans the lyrical, heartfelt songs “ Angel from Montgomery,” “ Sam Stone,” and “ Paradise” to the classic country music parody “ You Never Even Called Me by My Name,” John Prine is a songwriter’s songwriter. Across five decades, Prine has created critically acclaimed albums—John Prine (one of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time), Bruised Orang With a range that spans the lyrical, heartfelt songs “ Angel from Montgomery,” “ Sam Stone,” and “ Paradise” to the classic country music parody “ You Never Even Called Me by My Name,” John Prine is a songwriter’s songwriter. Across five decades, Prine has created critically acclaimed albums—John Prine (one of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time), Bruised Orange, and The Missing Years—and earned many honors, including two Grammy Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting from the Americana Music Association, and induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. His songs have been covered by scores of artists, from Johnny Cash and Miranda Lambert to Bette Midler and 10,000 Maniacs, and have influenced everyone from Roger McGuinn to Kacey Musgraves. Hailed in his early years as the “ new Dylan,” Prine still counts Bob Dylan among his most enthusiastic fans.In John Prine, Eddie Huffman traces the long arc of Prine’s musical career, beginning with his early, seemingly effortless successes, which led paradoxically not to stardom but to a rich and varied career writing songs that other people have made famous. He recounts the stories, many of them humorous, behind Prine’s best-known songs and discusses all of Prine’s albums as he explores the brilliant records and the ill-advised side trips, the underappreciated gems and the hard-earned comebacks that led Prine to found his own successful record label, Oh Boy Records. This thorough, entertaining treatment gives John Prine his due as one of the most influential songwriters of his generation.

30 review for John Prine: In Spite of Himself (American Music)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    It seemed like a good idea at the time but lit turned out to be like a stray that caught your eye at the pound but grows up to be something else. Rather than read this book you would be better off listening to Bonnie Raitt doing "Angel From Montgomery" or maybe the man himself doing "Dear Abbey, Dear Abbey... It seemed like a good idea at the time but lit turned out to be like a stray that caught your eye at the pound but grows up to be something else. Rather than read this book you would be better off listening to Bonnie Raitt doing "Angel From Montgomery" or maybe the man himself doing "Dear Abbey, Dear Abbey...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Stacy Bearse

    This biography of one of my favorite singer/songwriters proved to be a deep disappointment. Yes, it is a detailed chronicle of John Prine's musical output and the views of published critics. But it provides little insight to the character and musings of John Prine, the man. Prine declined to be interviewed by Huffman, leaving the author to rely on recordings and previously published sources. The book suffers accordingly. This biography of one of my favorite singer/songwriters proved to be a deep disappointment. Yes, it is a detailed chronicle of John Prine's musical output and the views of published critics. But it provides little insight to the character and musings of John Prine, the man. Prine declined to be interviewed by Huffman, leaving the author to rely on recordings and previously published sources. The book suffers accordingly.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Brent

    Fun, but like a big review article, because of his lively subject, who declined to participate or authorize this biography. I'm more ready for Prine's own memoir with songs -John Prine Beyond Words- and most recent two records. Mildly recommended. Fun, but like a big review article, because of his lively subject, who declined to participate or authorize this biography. I'm more ready for Prine's own memoir with songs -John Prine Beyond Words- and most recent two records. Mildly recommended.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Brian Johannesen

    A good overview of the career and man. Collections of funny and insightful lines from interviews that will sound familiar to the hardcore fan. An easy read with lots of good info. I️ would much rather hear the story from the horse’s mouth, but until that book comes along, this will do.

  5. 5 out of 5

    M. Sarki

    I received a review copy that I have enjoyed, but wish was more involved in the personality of the man himself. What draws me to Prine is his character, and though this book offers a glimpse for a first-time reader of anything Prine, it lacks the meat I would have liked to savor. This is however a very good introduction to his chronological development as a singer-songwriter, and many albums detailed in their development offers an insight into what to listen to first. My wife and I were fortunat I received a review copy that I have enjoyed, but wish was more involved in the personality of the man himself. What draws me to Prine is his character, and though this book offers a glimpse for a first-time reader of anything Prine, it lacks the meat I would have liked to savor. This is however a very good introduction to his chronological development as a singer-songwriter, and many albums detailed in their development offers an insight into what to listen to first. My wife and I were fortunate to see Prine perform live in Louisville a few years ago but never had purchased any of his albums. His work is clever, humorous, serious, and heartfelt but the melodies prove redundant and nothing that makes us want to return time and time again for a good listen. Nonetheless, John Prine is an iconic figure and important to the development of lyric-based music. It is sad he died unnecessarily.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Patty

    I'm not a huge John Prine fan, but I am a huge Eddie Huffman fan. Eddie's been a friend of mine for a number of years and he's not only a great and smart guy, but a fantastic writer. Despite no assistance from Prine or his people, he did a great job pulling together, in a journalistic way, tons of information about his life and his music. Phrases like "looking about as ill at ease as a dog trying to send a fax" didn't hurt either. You probably know some John Prine songs even if you think you don I'm not a huge John Prine fan, but I am a huge Eddie Huffman fan. Eddie's been a friend of mine for a number of years and he's not only a great and smart guy, but a fantastic writer. Despite no assistance from Prine or his people, he did a great job pulling together, in a journalistic way, tons of information about his life and his music. Phrases like "looking about as ill at ease as a dog trying to send a fax" didn't hurt either. You probably know some John Prine songs even if you think you don't--Angel From Montgomery and Paradise are two of his most well-known. Longtime John Prine fans will get a lot out of this book, and it may just get me to go out and buy a couple of Prine albums!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Naomi Krokowski

    Prine's songwriting skills just blow me away and have for years. I've loved and laughed at his songs much of my life. This book was a good trip through the life and times of John Prine. I'm still in awe of his talent and don't quite understand it, but I enjoyed learning more about a real genius and a character. Prine's songwriting skills just blow me away and have for years. I've loved and laughed at his songs much of my life. This book was a good trip through the life and times of John Prine. I'm still in awe of his talent and don't quite understand it, but I enjoyed learning more about a real genius and a character.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    Probably great read for a true John Prine fan. I really respect his music, but found there was too much detail and not enough juice. Prose a little dry. I suppose that is explained by lack of access to Prine himself. Too bad.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Frank Mazzie

    The book was less than I anticipated. I wanted more. Unfortunately, I read that John Prine declined to be interviewed or discuss anything with the author. Info was culled from many different sources and I think this contributed to result being less than satisfying.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Gregory Jones

    I had really high hopes for this book. Perhaps my standards are a bit unfair, but for the book being released by the press of one of the best musicology institutions in the nation, I expected more. First of all, the author admits in the beginning that Prine was unwilling to work with him. To make up for this lack of interview material, the author quotes many, many other interviews. In fact, the majority of the book is a bit of a mashup of what other folks have said about Prine's career. There ar I had really high hopes for this book. Perhaps my standards are a bit unfair, but for the book being released by the press of one of the best musicology institutions in the nation, I expected more. First of all, the author admits in the beginning that Prine was unwilling to work with him. To make up for this lack of interview material, the author quotes many, many other interviews. In fact, the majority of the book is a bit of a mashup of what other folks have said about Prine's career. There are some brilliant Prine quotes from liner notes and such, but could have more in terms of originality there. More than that issue, though, is the fact that there are no citations and this is a book from an academic press. Despite literally hundreds of quotes from various industry publications and other interviews, there are no citations to allow scholars to follow up on the author's work. I don't mean to nitpick and I rarely write negative reviews, but I genuinely found this book to be a disappointment. I cannot imagine what the author endured in trying to cobble together this collection, but it sort of feels like a book that doesn't live up to its billing. Had I been involved in advising the project, I would have recommended that the author focus on Prine's reputation and public perception; that would have been a different book, not a biography per se, and would have made sense for the source base that it used.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    A fan's bio. Prine himself, despite the interest of the press, wanted nothing to do with it, which signaled to all around the songwriter to keep Huffman at bay. That said, it's better by a stretch than the average fan bio. Affectionate toward its subject, and Huffman benefitted from both a crack researcher, as well as a brother who helped him think through the musical issues. Huffman put his researcher to good use. It's an interpretation of the existing clippings. Huffman has nothing personal on A fan's bio. Prine himself, despite the interest of the press, wanted nothing to do with it, which signaled to all around the songwriter to keep Huffman at bay. That said, it's better by a stretch than the average fan bio. Affectionate toward its subject, and Huffman benefitted from both a crack researcher, as well as a brother who helped him think through the musical issues. Huffman put his researcher to good use. It's an interpretation of the existing clippings. Huffman has nothing personal on Prine, little that is revelatory in the background, hasn't bothered to interview anyone. Prine remains a "midwestern Proust," as Bob Dylan has styled him, and -- as Roger Waters has said -- in a songwriting class with Neil Young and John Lennon. There's a there there, nor is Huffman ignorant of the achievement. But with little new in the record, Eddie Huffman offers a career-summary as preparatory to criticism. I don't know that it will be enough to remain serviceable.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mike Mikulski

    Huffman pulls together a concise bio of singer, songwriter John Prine, drawing from a wide variety of newspaper, radio, television, and internet interviews of Prine and his colleagues. I never stopped to think how many classics Prine wrote before he was 25. "Sam Stone", "Hello in There", "Angel from Montgomery", "Illegal Smile" and "Paradise" all came out on "John Prine" in 1971. Prine's talent and wry insight did not stop there. Huffman's accounts of Prine anecdotes, song writing and recording o Huffman pulls together a concise bio of singer, songwriter John Prine, drawing from a wide variety of newspaper, radio, television, and internet interviews of Prine and his colleagues. I never stopped to think how many classics Prine wrote before he was 25. "Sam Stone", "Hello in There", "Angel from Montgomery", "Illegal Smile" and "Paradise" all came out on "John Prine" in 1971. Prine's talent and wry insight did not stop there. Huffman's accounts of Prine anecdotes, song writing and recording of his music make this a great read. This is not an authorized biography since Prine's Oh Boy label was putting out their own retrospective. The critiques of each Prine release made me go back and listen to some Prine songs I hadn't heard in a while. I'd recommend this to any fan of Prine, Chicago folk and improv or Americana music as well as anyone interested in what makes a great song lyric.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Smith

    What a wonderful read, been wanting to read it for years.. worth the wait as I feel it truly captured the heart and soul of a man who had his own genre in songwriting, whatever that is or was.. loved and respected by all that gave themselves the opportunity to listen to his Travis picking guitar and unique songwriting ability.. he was no angel in his early years but for all his faults he was accepted and eventually found those wings that supported a beautiful family and admiration from his fans What a wonderful read, been wanting to read it for years.. worth the wait as I feel it truly captured the heart and soul of a man who had his own genre in songwriting, whatever that is or was.. loved and respected by all that gave themselves the opportunity to listen to his Travis picking guitar and unique songwriting ability.. he was no angel in his early years but for all his faults he was accepted and eventually found those wings that supported a beautiful family and admiration from his fans and his musical peers.. sad that he will not have the opportunity to throw stones at the people outside his retirement home singing one of his gems "Hello in There".. peace and love to his family and friends.. RIP John 🖤

  14. 5 out of 5

    Edward Janes

    I rarely read biographies but made an exception for this portrait of American folk/country artist and songwriter John Prine who died last year. I hadnt heard of Prine before talking to a random at a music gig who put me onto him and I havent looked back since. This book is full of anecdotes that capture the combination of humour, social commentary and knowledge of the human condition that he put into his music and gigs, but also how he had a successful 45 year career and the respect of his peers I rarely read biographies but made an exception for this portrait of American folk/country artist and songwriter John Prine who died last year. I hadnt heard of Prine before talking to a random at a music gig who put me onto him and I havent looked back since. This book is full of anecdotes that capture the combination of humour, social commentary and knowledge of the human condition that he put into his music and gigs, but also how he had a successful 45 year career and the respect of his peers without ever becoming a global star.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gail Marquardt

    I didn’t grow up listening to John Prine but, having recently been introduced to his music, I enjoyed reading about how it all began. Unfortunately, since the author didn’t have access to Prine when writing this book, it lacks the personal insights I was hoping for. It’s mostly a compilation of reviews and articles pulled from articles and blogs. I read about two-thirds of it and skimmed the rest.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Larry Dacus

    Not so Good Biography of John Prine This biography suffered from a lack of support from the subject. The author is honest about this lack of participation at the very beginning but this makes the book into a rehash of old interviews and reviews. The reader would be better served to obtain the recent anthology songbook produced by Prine himself available at Old Boy Records.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tom Devlin

    It is John Prine which is always an interesting subject. Mr. Huffman did a great job in digging deep into Prine's material and his evolution within the sticky music business. I started this book just a few days prior to learning that John was infected with Covid-19. I am not a praying person, but for John, I am pulling them out. Good read on a great songwriter. It is John Prine which is always an interesting subject. Mr. Huffman did a great job in digging deep into Prine's material and his evolution within the sticky music business. I started this book just a few days prior to learning that John was infected with Covid-19. I am not a praying person, but for John, I am pulling them out. Good read on a great songwriter.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ken Sayers

    I thought this was a very interesting book about an interesting man and his decades of music. It was only a few years ago that I started learning about John Prine and I have been fascinated with him ever since. This book goes through John’s career year by year with background information on the songs and albums over the years.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Steve Klemz

    A good summation of the facts. Prine did not get involved in this, so personal stories are mostly quotes from interviews. But the facts are impressive. QUite a career, involving a lot of famous people. Amazing how John Prine's career took off when he turned 60. He went out on a high note. A good summation of the facts. Prine did not get involved in this, so personal stories are mostly quotes from interviews. But the facts are impressive. QUite a career, involving a lot of famous people. Amazing how John Prine's career took off when he turned 60. He went out on a high note.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Donn Urban

    In spite of being a fan of Prine’s singing, this bio was somewhat interesting, but really seemed to get hung up on the details of his recording (where it was recorded, who were the band players, singers, etc., etc.). I did make it through, but…had to work at it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Breedlove

    Great book. If you are a Prine fan this is the one~!!!!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mike Sigler

    One of my favorite musicians. Author does reasonable job explaining prine’s history and musical origins and development but book only okay

  23. 4 out of 5

    Patressa Kearns

    Very third-party, although the stories are interesting. I'm a huge Prine fan, so I'll seek out a better bio. Very third-party, although the stories are interesting. I'm a huge Prine fan, so I'll seek out a better bio.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dale J Bjorklund

    Prine's genius is really beginning to be realized now with works like this. Prine's genius is really beginning to be realized now with works like this.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Chase Barnard

    Author did a good job considering he didn't get direct cooperation from Mr. Prine. Well cited and researched. An enjoyable read about a true American original. Author did a good job considering he didn't get direct cooperation from Mr. Prine. Well cited and researched. An enjoyable read about a true American original.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Simon Robs

    RIP John Prine, one of Chicago's best exports in the music world! RIP John Prine, one of Chicago's best exports in the music world!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    Although not an authorized biography, this was thoroughly researched and contained a lot of good information about JP’s music through the years. Minimal personal details.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sally

    Well, of course I liked it. It’s about my favorite singer.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    Although not an authorized biography, this was thoroughly researched and contained a lot of good information about JP’s music through the years. Minimal personal details.

  30. 5 out of 5

    thomas

    Spotty but gives you a good sense of Prine's journey Spotty but gives you a good sense of Prine's journey

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