To honor musical legend Gordon Lightfoot, who died on May 1, 2023, I wanted to share this beautiful set that John Prine performed at a house party in December 2018, which includes Prine's own dedication to Lightfoot. The set was part of George Stroumboulopoulos's "House of Strombo" series, where he invites musicians into his living room to perform tiny concerts.
Starting at 6:36 in the video, Prine plays "Far From Me" and dedicates it to Lightfoot, who is in the living room audience. Prine has often mentioned that it's his favorite song he's ever written, and in the 2018 set, he tells a story of playing it back in 1971 in front of Gordon Lightfoot at the Riverboat—the famous club in Yorkville, Toronto, that opened in 1964 and showcased Canadian musicians including Gordon Lightfoot, Murray McLauchlan, Bruce Cockburn, and Joni Mitchell and then became central to the North American music circuit, hosting all the greats: Howlin' Wolf, Simon & Garfunkel, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Tim Buckley, Ritchie Havens, Junior Wells, John Prine, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Arlo Guthrie, Buddy Guy, Kris Kristofferson, John Lee Hooker, Doc Watson, Tim Hardin, Jerry Jeff Walker, Janis Ian, Steve Goodman, Odetta, Seals & Crofts and James Taylor.
Prine was at the Riverboat in 1971 for a week-long gig, and on the second night, Gordon Lightfoot, his "songwriting hero" came in, and sat right in front of him, "intimidating as hell." Prine says he remembers playing "Far From Me" that night at the club, and seeing Lightfoot singing along to the chorus, so in the 2018 video he turns to Lightfoot and says, "This is for you." As the song starts, Lightfoot closes his eyes and soaks in the music. I can't listen to this song without crying. It's literally the saddest song in the world (well, maybe right after Prine's "Sam Stone"), and we all know that the sad songs are the best songs. But to see Prine singing to Gordon Lightfoot, as Lightfoot, looking happy as he can possibly be, closes his eyes and sings along? Pass the tissues. Please go watch this absolute gift. RIP, Gordon Lightfoot. I hope you're hanging with Prine again!