John Prine on Using
‘Unwed Fathers’ to Make a Stand Against Abortion Bans
CREDIT: COURTESY OF DANNY CLINCH
It figures that the guy who wrote “Angel From Montgomery” would care about women
in Alabama. Anyone who thought the fight against state abortion bans lacked
male allies can look to John
Prine, considered one of the best songwriters of his or any generation
since his self-titled 1971 folk-rock debut. He was outraged enough to first set
up an online auction benefiting the Alabama ACLU,
then raise money for the national organization by recutting “Unwed Fathers” as
a soon-to-be-released single with alt-country heroine
Was there any
personal impetus for using “Unwed Fathers” to make a stand on state abortion
I’m always concerned when our civil liberties
are being attacked. I believe in our Constitution. We wanted to support the
work of the ACLU and
invite others to do the same. That song has always been about how women are the
ones who carry, birth and sometimes are left with taking care of and raising
children too. Now they want to take away their right to decide if or when they
do that. Women should be the ones to make decisions about what affects their
lives in such a big way. It seems pretty simple to me.
You sing this
remake with Margo
Price. It’s a powerful visual when she’s being outspoken about reproductive
issues while nine months pregnant.
Margo and I sing “Unwed Fathers” as a duet
onstage all the time. She was the perfect fit — and she is a woman who makes
her own choices! I think Margo would stand up for what’s right whether she was
pregnant or not. She is a woman who knows her own mind, and we love her and her
There was a
report that this single’s flip side might have you remaking “Your Flag Decal
Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore.”
Actually, we are putting out an acoustic version
of “People Puttin’ People Down” with me and Jason
Isbellswapping verses on acoustic guitars. It turned out really well.
Your fan base
skews progressive. But Isbell is a good example of an artist who still has
supposed fans tweeting that they’re quitting him because of his liberal
politics. So do you risk losing any?
I’ve been singing these songs for 50 years, so
if fans hear something new in them now, I’d love to hear what it is they
inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame June 13.
I’m delighted. It’s wonderful to be included in
a club like that. It’ll be great to meet up with Tom T. [Hall, a fellow
inductee]. We don’t get to hang out too often.
Is there a Tom
T. Hall song you wish you’d written?
I love “Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine.” Best setup
for a song I’ve ever heard: “Sittin’ in Miami, pouring blended whiskey down…”
There was a gap
of 13 years between your previous album of all-new material and last year’s
“The Tree of Forgiveness.” So maybe it’s foolish to already be
anticipating the next one?
I’m writing, for sure. The success of “Tree of
Forgiveness” was very surprising to me. I’m very happy that my fans from the
first record (in 1971) to the most recent are now bringing their children and
grandchildren to my shows. That is motivating me to write. Yeah, I’ll probably
bake a new record in the next couple of years.
Things You Didn’t
Know About John