The Gospel and John Prine
When: June 9, 2023, 9:00 am - Friday
This session will take a close look at John Prine’s work, rich with Christian themes, imagery, humor, and an opportunity to sing along. Southern culture is strongly shaped by the arts. Though born in Chicago, Prine’s parents were natives of Kentucky; and he was beloved in the South, where he died at home in Nashville, from Covid, in 2020. The intersection of justice, spirituality, imagination, embodiment, and the arts, is found in Prine’s music. This session will focus on the Gospel in the of music of John Prine.
Dwight A. Moody, The Meetinghouse, “John Prine’s Music of Christian Rhetoric and Images”
An exploration of the songs of John Prine with a view toward the various ways he uses Christian rhetoric and images. Beginning with the religious context of his upbringing (“Grandpa Was a Carpenter”), the session gives particular attention to lyrics that use biblical stories in humorous ways (“Sweet Revenge”), that critique Christian ideas and practices (“Some Humans Ain’t Human,” “Billy the Bum”), that reverse or flip traditional understandings of Christian ideas (“Spanish Pipedreams,” “Everybody”), and that embrace or celebrate Christian teaching (“Diamonds in the Rough,” “When I Get to Heaven”).
Nancy Posey, Lipscomb University, “John Prine and ‘the Least of These My Brethren’”
Read through a spiritual lens, secular texts often convey powerful themes to a wider audience. This is true in music as in literary fiction. Posey will examine lyrics of the late Americana singer-songwriter John Prine that convey Jesus’ message in Matthew 25:40 and the description of pure religion in James 1:27. Neither didactic or judgmental, Prine’s songs drew attention to the lonely and marginalized with poignant lyrics and a quirky sense of humor.
Micki Pulleyking, Missouri State University, “Friends: Iris Dement and John Prine”
John Prine and Iris DeMent were friends all the way back to 1992 when John heard Iris sing ‘Mama’s Opry,’. He cried. Friendship is forged through music, lyrics, church, and the dirt on which you are born and die. Prine and Dement, raised in the Jesus faith, were content “to let the mystery be”, and yet their calling was giving voice to those shunned by society, which is the heart of spirituality and one of the finest facets of the undefined faith from which these friends, Prine and Dement, sang.
Micki Pulleyking, Missouri State University, Convener
- Dwight A. Moody, The Meetinghouse, “John Prine’s Music of Christian Rhetoric and Images”
- Nancy Posey, Lipscomb University, “John Prine and ‘the Least of These My Brethren’”
- Micki Pulleyking, Missouri State University, “Friends: Iris Dement and John Prine”