There’s a rhythm to musical grief. When a notable musician passes, first comes the outpouring of comments and cover versions, then there are reflective articles and sometimes, eventually, a tribute show. But what comes next? How do you make a forward looking tribute?
That’s where John Prine’s family is now. They’ve been through a particularly protracted cycle. It began with the legendary songwriter’s passing in the early days of Covid and seemingly culminated with You Got Gold — a weeklong, city-wide, star-studded series of benefit concerts and events last year. Now, John’s family has decided to make You Got Gold an ongoing gathering benefitting the Hello In There foundation.
“We see part of this is being a love letter to Nashville and John’s relationship with the city and with the wider fan community,” says Fiona Whelan Prine, John’s widow, the head of Oh Boy Records and the creator of the Hello In There Foundation.
When Fiona stopped by WNXP to talk about this year’s version she promised Hollywood stars, pop-up shops and an even more diverse lineup but she would not reveal the artists. She admits to wondering whether fans would sign up again not knowing who was playing but nearly every ticket for every event has sold out in advance.
Some of the non-ticketed events are illustrative of John Prine’s love for place including one at the recently closed meat and three icon Arnold’s. For two days, John Prine’s favorite meatloaf is back in a setting that is representative of Nashville’s accelerated tug of war between commercial development and cultural importance.
Fiona says John would likely have had the same experience many longtime residents do now when venturing through the quickly changing landscape without familiar Music City landmarks.
“I drive around Nashville now and I go, ‘Oh my gosh, John would be so shocked.’ But first of all, he’d be completely lost,” Fiona laughs. “John loved nothing more than familiarity. And that was one of the things he loved about Nashville. He had his spots. So we’re incorporating what was old about Nashville, what was beloved about Nashville, and then maybe bringing in some new things as well. It’s been a labor of love.”