An hour of stirring performances from the late singer/songwriter “The Very Best of John Prine” on AUSTIN CITY LIMITS – Sept. 16 at 10 pm

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Austin City Limits

“The Very Best of John Prine”

Saturday, September 16 at 10 pm


Live music beacon Austin City Limits proudly opened Season 46 with a gem: a poignant season premiere featuring the best of American songwriting giant John Prine. Sadly we lost Prine in 2020 due to complications from Covid-19, but ACL celebrates his remarkable life and legacy with twelve classic performances, chronicling his early days from his 1978 debut in Season 3 on the program to his final appearance in Season 44 in 2018. The requiem showcases the folk hero’s signature wit and wisdom, detailing the stories behind some of his most beloved songs.

Called “the Mark Twain of American songwriting” by Rolling Stone, Prine made eight appearances on ACL over the course of 40 years, and the career-spanning hour captures his storied career, showcasing a mix of vintage fan favorites and more recent gems and includes a never-before-aired 1987 performance of his classic “Sam Stone.” Prine’s singular talent and his ability to write songs about everyday lives and the human condition were revered by generations of songwriters and the episode features a heartfelt introduction by Americana star Jason Isbell; Isbell introduces the hour saying “The thing I admired most about John’s songs was the way he could step completely into someone else’s life.”

The hour opens with Prine’s 1978 ACL debut, performing a pair of solo acoustic numbers, “Fish and Whistle” and “Hello in There,” as he introduces his immense talents to a rapt audience. Prine’s 1983 appearance as part of a songwriters special, alongside peers such as Guy Clark and Rodney Crowell, is captured here; he captivates the crowd and fellow artists with a hilarious intro to the irreverent relationship saga “There She Goes.” A bonus for fans is a never-before-aired 1987 performance of the addicts elegy “Sam Stone,” with Prine sharing a moving story about a personal visit to DC’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The hour showcases many of his best-known songs, including early standouts “Illegal Smile” and “Paradise” from his self-titled 1971 debut. Celebrated as a great storyteller, Prine sparkles in his introduction to “Jesus, The Missing Years” from 1992, gamely speculating on the deity’s young adulthood and Prine’s own wayward ways. Prine makes a memorable 2002 guest appearance, joining Bonnie Raitt for a gorgeous duet of the Prine-penned “Angel from Montgomery,” in a performance Raitt has called one of the highlights of her career. The hour closes with a pair of songs about mortality from Prine’s last album The Tree of Forgiveness during his final ACL appearance in 2018. Bouncing back and forth between spoken recitation and joyful singing on the closer “When I Get to Heaven,” the songwriter offers a good-time singalong about leaving this world on a high note. Prine couldn’t have written a better epitaph: When he gets to heaven, he tells the Austin crowd, “I’m gonna get a guitar and start a rock ’n’ roll band/check into a swell hotel/ain’t the afterlife grand?”

“Very few artists appeared on ACL more times than John Prine,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “It was a mutual love affair – he loved doing the show, and we loved having him (8 times!!). We consider these his best performances, and as always, he will have you laughing and crying – sometimes both during the same song.”

“John loved to play Austin City Limits and was very proud to have made so many appearances over the years,” said Prine’s widow Fiona Whelan Prine. “Terry Lickona has been a wonderful supporter of John’s career and a good friend to our family. Thank you ACL and Terry for opening your season with this special show.“