For the better part of five decades, John Prine has penned some of music’s funniest sad songs and saddest funny songs. Now, the singer-songwriter behind “Fish and Whistle,” “Sam Stone,” “Angel from Montgomery” and other three-minute masterpieces has authored a book.

“John Prine: Beyond Words” is part songbook, part photo album, with Prine’s anecdotes — and the occasional wry comment about the fashion and hairstyles in those old snapshots — peppering the pages. 

On Saturday afternoon, Prine discussed the book at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s Ford Theater with Museum writer and editor Peter Cooper. During the hour-long program, Prine shared memories from his life and career. The packed crowd learned about the fear of bees that got Prine fired from his first job at a custard shop, how he and Al Bunetta formed Oh Boy Records, and the childhood visits to Paradise, Ky, which, years later, inspired his classic “Paradise.” 

“I wrote the song mainly so my dad would know I was a songwriter,” said Prine, to chuckles from the audience. 

The crowd kept laughing through most of the witty and insightful interview, especially when Cooper asked how Prine can veer from humor to tragedy in his songs. “To me, there’s not many things that don’t have some side of humor to them, even the worst things,” he explained. “Every time I see what my fellow human beings are doing, it’s hilarious.”

Shortly before the end of the program, Prine revealed that he’s planning to start work on a new album – after all, when a person has his own record label, it’s expected that he’ll put out records. “I’m going to jump in there and see what comes out,” he smiled.

 

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