John Prine is one of the best storytellers we have. And in his five decades of story-sharing, he’s told us every kind of tale: the trials of soldiers, the hurt of fractured families, the wink of someone newly in love and the humor in all of it. He’s equally adept at triggering both tears and laughter, and no matter how successful and acclaimed he’s become, and even after weathering cancer in his neck which deepened his gentle voice, he’s never lost the ability to convey the struggles of the everyman.
By no exaggeration, he’s one of the most influential songwriters of his generation. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame last month and also nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, following the release of first new album in 13 years, The Tree of Forgiveness.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a performance more representative of his charisma than this one recorded at the Bottom Line club in New York City on this day (July 10) in 1978. Prine cracks jokes like a stand-up comic to applause and laughter and then turns around and sings a song that’ll break your heart. He shares anecdotes from his childhood, fictional tales about the characters in his songs and radiates warmth throughout. This whopping 28-song set is the first in a two-night residency at the now-shuttered Greenwich Village club. There are too many delightful moments to count—you’ll just have to listen for yourself.
Prine also remains the head of his own label, Oh Boy Records, which recently signed its first new artist in 15 years, Kentucky singer/songwriter Kelsey Waldon.
Listen to night one of John Prine’s 1978 New York City show below, followed by night two further down. Read our review of his recent Bonnaroo set, which included appearances by Waldon and Brandi Carlile, right here.
Read: John Prine: The Tree Of Forgiveness Review