John Prine's "Lake Marie"--Six Minute Heartache

Listen to the Song Here John Prine: "Lake Marie"
While I was enduring the pandemic lockdown in the spring of 2020, John Prine died of COVID. For many, it seemed to be an event that made the pandemic both personal and universal—since for Prine’s fans, his music was a treasure. And like many others in that moment, I turned to his music to mourn him and to once again find some grounding in the humanity of his songs. His songs are often funny (often at Prine’s own expense), though they also are at least as likely to be songs of loss—lost countries (“The Great Compromise”), lost lives (“Sam Stone”), lost loves (“Speed of the Sound of Loneliness”), lost places (“Paradise”), lost keys (“Automobile”). In all those ways, they remind me—and many others—of what we share—and lose—as a country.

Then over two years later, I finally caught COVID myself. And while in a week-long quarantine, I returned to Prine’s music, listening to a dozen of his albums in succession, watching his interview/performance with Poet Laureate Ted Kooser from 2005, and watching several other performances as well.  And while the songs from his debut album continued to move and amaze me, and other songs continued to be touchstones for me, I kept returning to a song from 1995’s Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings called “Lake Marie.”  It’s a song of devastating heartbreak and loss, and the more I listened, the more I came to understand that it manages to resonate so deeply because—like so much of Prine’s songwriting—the heartbreak works its way in deep by touching on the mythology of America itself.

I'll have more to say about it, but please listen to the song first.

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