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HE REMEMBERS EVERYTHING
The Simple Perfection of John Prine’s Final Song

Just the opening affirmation “Okay,” spoken in that thick chest voice, is a throat punch. Knowing it’s John Prine’s last song, it serves as a reminder that he wants us to gently embrace each other.

His right hand finds a few clusters, left hand drops an occasional grounding bottom note. It is so basic, a velvet pillow for what may be—and I loathe hyperbole—John Prine’s most perfect song.

Consider the artist, the catalog. Repeat: John Prine’s most perfect song.

“I Remember Everything” is simple but profound. Every blade of grass, tree, hotel room, he recalls them all—and not just the things, but what each contains. Intimate, a man and his instrument, sifting through life, love, small details.

“Every song I ever sang on a guitar out of tune,” he intones softly. He caresses these things lovingly as he sings them; the joys they provided, memories “that can’t be boughten,” as he wrote in “Souvenirs.”

A tender heart, a jovial spirit and the depths of his kindness and compassion allowed “Sam Stone,” “Angel From Montgomery” and “Hello in There” to string empathy across a half century of life. They still resonate for lost vets, loveless marriages and forgotten old people because of how Prine saw them in his heart.

Written for a documentary on his life by Rolling Stone’s Patrick Doyle, “I Remember Everything” is a pencil sketch of exquisite intimacy, the compass to the four pearlescent chambers of his heart.

A timeless love song in the vein of “Night and Day,” “My Funny Valentine,” “Always on My Mind,” it’s obviously inspired by his relationship with Fiona Whelan Prine, his Irish bride and manager for many years. Their romance charges the chorus metaphors with the kind of love that exists beyond imagination—and can only be realized when one experiences it. True, simple, engulfing.

Beyond the reference to “your ocean eyes of blue,” there is the heartbreaking admission: “I will miss you in the morning light, like roses miss the dew.”

How could he have known? Or perhaps John wasn’t taking any chances. He wanted Fiona to know how essential their love was. He treasured life, cherished the smallest things—pork loins, little children, the ocean breeze, old friends—in a way that reminds us all about what should matter.

“I Remember Everything” also serves as a love song to everyone who ever loved him, or found a piece of their heart or their life in his songs, which is what makes the final verse so universal. With a craggy voice weathered from three bouts with cancer, many, many cigarettes and a few pints of Guinness, he blesses the listener with a truth to guide the rest of us on our journey.

I’ve been down this road before
Alone as I can be
Careful not to let my past go sneaking up on meGot no future in my happiness
Though regrets are very few
Sometimes a little tenderness was the best I could do...

Photo: Danny Clinch

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