John Prine Retrospective to Lead Off Austin City Limits Season

photo: Scott Newton

John Prine’s victory lap for a life well lived and a legendary music career was cut short on April 7th when he passed away from complications due to COVID-19. But Austin City Limits will be paying tribute to the legendary songwriter by leading off their 46th season with a retrospective of Prine who appeared on the longest-running music program in television history a whopping eight times, starting with his debut in 1978, and ending with his final appearance in 2018.

Between that period John Prine went from a somewhat obscure songwriter and cult hero to one of the most celebrated songwriters of a generation. The retrospective follows Prine through this period while highlighting his various roles and characters over a 40-year span.

“Very few artists appeared on ACL more times than John Prine,” says Austin City Limits 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.”

Austin City Limits has selected twelve performances for the special (see setlist below), and along with some of his most signature songs such as “Paradise” and “Angel From Montgomery” performed with Bonnie Raitt, the set includes a never-before-aired 1987 performance of his song “Sam Stone.” Along with the songs themselves, the stories Prine shares about them make the performances memorable, including a personal visit to DC’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial that inspired “Sam Stone.”

“John loved to play ‘Austin City Limits’ and was very proud to have made so many appearances over the years,” says 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.”

The episode is scheduled to debut on October 3rd on PBS. As they say, check local listing for specific dates and times.

Episode setlist:

Fish and Whistle (1978)
Hello in There (1978)
There She Goes (1983)
Sam Stone (1987)
Illegal Smile (1987)
Paradise (1987)
Jesus, The Missing Years (1992)
Everything Is Cool (1992)
Picture Show (1996)
Angel from Montgomery (2002)
Summer’s End (2018)
When I Get to Heaven (2018)

29+