Monday, July 30, 2012

"The Singing Mailman Delivers" by John Prine (1970)

Back in August of 1970 John Prine was working as a letter carrier for the U.S. Post Office in Chicago. It was in this capacity that he met the great journalist Studs Terkel for an interview, presumably for one his many books chronicling the American work experience. Mr. Terkel had been doing this type of journalism since the 1930’s, when he was employed by the NRA as a “writer.” Armed with a dictaphone and notebook, he set off on an adventure across America, the results of which were later published as “Working.”
In the 1960’s and 70’s Mr. Terkel was doing this type of thing on the radio, broadcasting on WFMT radio, and John Prine, who was just about to record his first album, was a guest on his show. He played a song or three and the interview is very interesting, covering many topics, including John Prine’s time in the service, as well as his stint as a mailman in Chicago. You can hear that interview on You Tube, in several parts, beginning with this link to Part One; 

But the best part of this interview was what took place after it was over. John Prine, as explained in the liner notes to this album, was looking to record a tape of his songs for copyright purposes. The tape would be sent on to the Library of Congress. So, he simply asked Mr. Terkel if it was possible to record the songs there in the studio. Mr. Terkel agreed, and the legendary Ray Nordstrand, who hosted “The Midnight Special”, agreed to do the engineering of the session.

What followed was 11 tracks, all of which Mr. Prine later recorded for his first album on Atlantic Records, which came out in October 1970. But this tape is so much better. It is clear and crisp in its quality, and John Prine was fresh and eager to share his work with the world. From “Hello In There”, “Souvenirs”, “Great Society Conflict Veteran’s Blues” (which was later retitled “Sam Stone”) all of Mr. Prine’s earliest work is here like you have never heard it before.

There is also a second disc of a performance by Mr. Prine in November of 1970, one month after the release of the album. “Paradise” is a song still applicable today. In that song Mr. Prine sings about how the town in which his father was born and raised ceased to exist after the coal company simply strip mined it off the face of the earth, leaving nothing behind. All of the songs speak to the conflict that is America, and the struggle of the average man; against all odds; to make it in this world.

No matter how much of a fan you are of John Prine’s, this album will only further secure your connection with the artist. And read the liner notes, they’re short and sweet, and highlight a uniquely American talent.

Medicare Signed Into Law - 1965

It was 47 years ago today when President Lyndon Johnson went to the Truman Libray in Missouri to sign the historic Medicare Act into law. To the President's right is former President Harry Truman. Behind them, partially obscured, is the chief architect of that Act, Vice President Hubert Humphrey.

I was barely 11 years old when this event took place, and never thought of it is as having anything to do with me. Well, here I am, 47 years later, and I am on Medicaid, a program which grew out of the original Medicare Program.  Without this return on my investment,  through a government mandated deduction from my paycheck, I would be in a very different position, respecting both my health and my dignity as a human being.

So, in the midst of all of the hubbub regarding what some people term to be "entitlements"; which they are not, they are investments; I just want to thank the leaders who made this program possible. Their actions, over 4 decades ago, affect me directly today.

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