There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes,
Jesus Christ died for nothin’, I suppose.
Very rarely, a songster ambushes me, instantly demolishing all defences with just a few words.
44 years ago John Prine did it with Sam Stone, most especially the couplet quoted above, which is still one of the most potent I have ever heard.
I was then not quite 18 years old, in my final year of high school, hoping that I would not be “called up”.
Prine’s song depicts an American, back home, shattered by the war in question.
Australians and Americans still call it the “Vietnam War”; Vietnam remembers the “American War.”
Prine’s song is not about nomenclature.
Multi syllabic words are generally absent from his often seemingly-simple songs, as are self-congratulation, narcissism, misanthropy, nihilism and sloganeering.
Underline “seemingly simple”.
Prine’s best songs are little masterpieces of concision, compassion and acute observation.
A recent New York Times Prine profile – part update, part overview – is equally rewarding for newcomers and longtime admirers.
Before you click here to read it, I suggest you see/hear this performance: