One of the many casualties of the pandemic has been live music. Live concerts which I was eagerly anticipating by Robyn Hitchcock at the Delmar Hall, They Might Be Giants in Chicago and Graham Nash at The Pageant were all canceled.
Until recently I hadn’t played music with anyone other than myself in 2020.
It was with great joy then that I took my acoustic guitar and my melodica with me when the Former Eternal Fiancee’ and I were invited to dinner at a fellow musician’s.
I selected three songs for us to play-
-San Francisco Bay Blues. I fell in love with Eric Clapton’s Unplugged version of this song which is just delightfully relaxed and joyful. Clapton plays kazoo on it. The song was was written and originally recorded in 1954 by Jesse Fuller, apparently a one-man band (per wikipedia-Fuller’s instruments included 6-string guitar (an instrument which he had abandoned before the beginning of his one-man band career), 12-string guitar, harmonica, kazoo, cymbal (high-hat) and fotdella. He could play several instruments simultaneously, particularly with the use of a headpiece to hold a harmonica, kazoo, and microphone. In addition, he would generally include at least one tap dance, soft-shoe, or buck and wing in his sets, accompanying himself on a 12-string guitar as he danced. )
-Comin’ In From Los Angeles which Arlo Guthrie played at Woodstock. The 3.5 minute segment of his performance in the movie Woodstock features about 3 minutes of lots of different hippies smoking lots of different things.
-Please Don’t Bury Me. One of several John Prine songs I learned decades ago. Here he is playing it live in 2016.
I was deeply saddened when Prine died earlier this year.
If you’re not familiar with him a good place to start is his album of duets with fantastic female singers, In Spite of Ourselves. It was his first release after successfully battling lung cancer. “The female duet partners include Iris DeMent, Connie Smith, Lucinda Williams, Trisha Yearwood, Melba Montgomery, Emmylou Harris, Dolores Keane, Patty Loveless, and his wife, Fiona Prine.”
Here’s the official video for the title track he sang with the great Iris Dement.
After listening to Prine songs while preparing for our duet, my friend was inspired to write a song a la Prine about the pandemic. Like the best of real Prine songs it features humor and social commentary.
I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. It’s called “Wear A Mask.”
John Prine died of COVID-19 April 7, 2020.