My folks did not go out much, not even a movie
And Folk was politic back then, Protest and "Feelin' Groovy,"
We lived out in the suburbs, it was a special thing
When they drove into Chicago to hear a mailman sing
That next week, they took my sister, one week later, they took me
I got a stamp on the back of my hand and I saw my destiny
Just an ordinary mailman with a gift for stringin' words
Who wrote and sang the greatest songs that we had ever heard
And every song was different and every time was new
And every other month or so, he'd write a song or two
With mugs of coke and peanuts, in the musk and cigarettes
We'd sit through rock star wannabes, to hear John's second set
"Hello In There" and "Paradise" and "Flag Decal" again
And one he never did record, "Will Anybody Be My Friend?"
Will anybody be my friend?
At Glen Ellyn Junior High School, the guys called me a fag
My homeroom teacher called me out, I wouldn't pledge the flag
There was Johnny Cash on Wednesday nights, to make life worth the time
Waiting for the weekend, goin' down to see John Prine
On Christmas, there was no one, at the old 5th Peg's back room
But our family and one couple, listening in the gloom
Then I called out a favorite song, John stopped his show and smiled
At me in growing silence there, I felt like heaven's child
It's a blessing I would carry, through trouble, dread and tears
And I gave John a pocket knife that he kept for luck for years
With two full sets, and sometimes three, each night a double bill
Everybody knew the reason that black room began to fill
With a feature in the Daily News and two in the Sun-Times
There were folks from every walk of life, goin' down to see John Prine
And so it was a joyful thing, and sorry now because
It's just a ghost of memory, how beautiful it was
That songs so filled with loneliness could leave us less alone
As if to love your neighbor were as easy as the phone
He'd sing "A friend that's been turned down will be a friend of mine"
And strangers felt like family then, goin' down to see John Prine
And so we all were happy, and happy for his sake
When Goodman brought Kristofferson, to score John his big break
We'd see him at the Arie Crown, up there where he belongs
To think that now the hungry world would get to hear these songs
And a few years on in Boston, we went down to see his show
We waited in the hallway, but he couldn't say hello
We saw him being interviewed, my sister Jane explained,
"That's all part of his job now, publicity's insane"
The critics raved, the drunkards roared, the groupies got in line
It would never be the same, goin' down to see John Prine
At the folkie's Sunday softball, for weeks they had it planned
John would come to play a game with his entire band
I had my year-old son there, we had brought him down to see
A man who just ignored him, and barely noticed me
He was out of shape and shouting, like his good time wasn't real
Then he headed out for a private thing with the boys in center field
And I wished it didn't matter, and I wished I didn't care
Just my tough luck to love someone who wasn't really there
On a sunny summer afternoon, for me the game was blown
Who'd believe this strung-out fool was the man who wrote "Sam Stone"?
At Rose Records store on Ashland, 1987
It felt a mile awkward when I stopped in to see him
A woman had her picture taken with him there and signed
But it just made me nervous, goin' down to see John Prine
And at his last accounting, there is bound to be a do
With St. Peter and the Muses, and Montgomery's Angel too
Saying, "Who's to speak for anyone, and who's to cast a stone
At one who eased our loneliness, but couldn't bear his own
And if I reach the pearly gates, when comes my time to go
I hope St. Peter's not too busy to come out and say hello
Will he sing "A friend that's been turned down will be a friend of mine."
Or stamp the back of my right hand - goin' down to see John Prine
There in the gloom I will request my favorite songs again,
"Paradise", "Hello in There", "Will Anybody Be My Friend."
That's "Paradise", "Hello in There", "Will Anybody Be My Friend."