Song of the Day #4,317: ‘Angel from Montgomery’ – John Prine

I’m not at all familiar with John Prine’s music, but when he died earlier this month after contracting coronavirus, I knew full well that the world had lost a legend.

I knew in large part because some of my favorite artists (Miranda Lambert, Lucinda Williams, Jason Isbell and Brandi Carlile) posted heartfelt tributes to the man that made it clear he was not just an immense talent but something akin to a family member.

Prine was discovered kicking around the Chicago folk scene in 1971 by the unlikely duo of Roger Ebert and Kris Kristofferson. He released his self-titled debut that year, and 17 more studio albums over the next 47 years, including a record titled The Tree of Forgiveness in 2018.

Prine’s songwriting influenced a endless list of diverse artists; names like Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello, Roger Waters and Kacey Musgraves. His humor and humanity shone through every lyric.

Take his most famous song, ‘Angel from Montgomery,’ which is written from the perspective of a middle-aged housewife. How did a 25-year-old man capture that character so well? The song reached popularity when Bonnie Raitt recorded it two years after its 1971 release, and her version has become a soulful country standard.

Prine’s death gives me an unfortunate excuse to dive into his catalog and hear what I’ve been missing. Perhaps I’ll dedicate a theme week or two to him later this year.

I am an old woman named after my mother
My old man is another child that’s grown old
If dreams were lightning, thunder were desire
This old house would have burnt down a long time ago

[Chorus]
Make me an angel that flies from Montgomery
Make me a poster of an old rodeo
Just give me one thing that I can hold on to
To believe in this living is just a hard way to go

When I was a young girl well, I had me a cowboy
He weren’t much to look at, just free rambling man
But that was a long time and no matter how I try
The years just flow by like a broken down dam

[Chorus]
Make me an angel that flies from Montgomery
Make me a poster of an old rodeo
Just give me one thing that I can hold on to
To believe in this living is just a hard way to go

There’s flies in the kitchen. I can hear ’em, they’re buzzing
And I ain’t done nothing since I woke up today
How the hell can a person go to work in the morning
And come home in the evening and have nothing to say

[Chorus]
Make me an angel that flies from Montgomery
Make me a poster of an old rodeo
Just give me one thing that I can hold on to
To believe in this living is just a hard way to go

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,317: ‘Angel from Montgomery’ – John Prine

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I’ve heard Bonnie Raitt’s version of this song so many times, but I had never heard the original until today. I’m sure your deep.dive into Prine’s discography will prove rewarding, and I look forward to the theme week(s) to come.

  2. Peg says:

    I agree a theme week is a great idea.

  3. Rob says:

    Mr. Prine was an American treasure. I discovered his music about 20 years ago. Like most artists, some of his albums are brilliant, some less so … but there was always a gem or two to be found. I was really hoping I could see him live someday, but now I’ll have to scratch his name off my bucket list. RIP John … you will be missed.

  4. It is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard…

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