A John Prine Memory, by Rich Paschall
When John Prine was growing up in Maywood, Illinois, a suburb along the west side of Chicago, he helped a friend with a newspaper route. “…and I delivered to a Baptist old peoples home where we’d have to go room-to-room.” That experience stayed with him and inspired him to write the song “Hello In There.” It appeared on his debut album in 1971.
Ya’ know that old trees just grow stronger
And old rivers grow wilder ev’ry day
Old people just grow lonesome
Waiting for someone to say, “Hello in there, hello”
John performed around Chicago at a number of clubs in the late 1960s. He was one of many singer-songwriters here in that era. His debut album was well received and he was nominated for a Grammy as Best New Artist in 1972. “I don’t think I’ve done a show without singing ‘Hello in There’,” John stated in the liner notes to ‘Great Days”, an anthology album put out in 1993.
So if you’re walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes
Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare
As if you didn’t care, say, “Hello in there, hello”
John Prine died on April 7th. He had been stricken with COVID-19. He was 73. He won two Grammy Awards in his career and was also presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020. His song, “Hello In There” has been covered by numerous artists.
One of the artists to frequently sing John’s song was Joan Baez. If you have plenty of Kleenex handy, you may wish to see her tribute to John recorded from her kitchen when he was hospitalized. She had covered the song on her 1975 album, “Diamonds and Rust.”
“I like songs that are clean and don’t have much fat on them — every line is direct, and all people can relate to it. That’s what I try to do.” – John Prine
See Also: “The Music Of John Prine,” by Marilyn Armstrong, SERENDIPITY, April 8, 2020.
SOURCES: “Joan Baez Dedicates ‘Hello in There’ to John Prine,” by Angie Martoccio, rollingstone.com March 30, 2020.
“John Prine Was The Master Of Lyrical Economy,” by Morgan Enos, Grammys, grammy.com April 8, 2020.
“John Prine (album),” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, en.wikipedia.org
“John Prine,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, en.wikipedia.org