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Old age and loneliness, written from the view of an old couple, is a theme relatively unexplored by songwriters (with the notable exception of Jacques Brel, "Les Vieux".) What's amazing is how it rings so true despite being written by a 25-year old. This really is a deeply sad and human song. Not just that people work hard their whole lives and then can't even expect acknowledgement of their existence once their greatest accomplishments are behind them, but that time numbs us to life. Even a cut as deep as losing a son eventually is just worn away by the tides of time. John Prine cuts to the soul of humanity like no other.
“Hello in There” is the spirit of country music in a nutshell. Prine has always been capable of reaching out his hand and pulling people out of the dumps, but he really sounds like he’s sharing memories with listeners one-on-one on his front porch with this song. Whether it’s John and Linda in Omaha, Rudy at the factory or Davy from the war, we get an insight into the blood, sweat and tears of America. It’s a reminder that we’re not alone in our personal or existential struggles, and the best way to get out of it is to bond over our struggles with others, especially when they might be in a far deeper (or invisible) hole than us. The song feels like such a big entity, even separated from his masterful 1971 debut album. —Lizzie Manno
The second video is another beautiful version by the Devine Miss. M, Bette Midler (1972)