New Song to Say Goodbye and Thank You

When I was 18 years old I got my first paid gig at an art festival in Waukegan, Illinois. Right after they offered me a spot in the festival, I realized I should probably learn some songs by other artists to give the audience a break from just hearing my original songs one right after the other. One of the songs I learned that year, nearly 30 years ago now, was “Angel from Montgomery” by John Prine. Prine’s songwriting first caught my attention as a girl of maybe 8 or 9 years old. I clearly remember being in the back of my parents’ car when one of his songs came on the radio, and I felt so moved by his music and words that I wanted to do that, to be able to write like he could write and play music like he could play. I wondered how people learned to write songs like that. I still wonder.

So, when I heard that John Prine had COVID-19, a rigid fear gripped me. It followed me through my days, intruding into my thoughts with things like, “I may not ever get to see him in concert again,” and “The world may miss out on any songs he would have written after this had he not gotten this terrible virus.” His songs on Tree of Forgiveness added so much to the body of art he created in his lifetime and I wanted more. I wanted him to have the chance to write and perform and record more if he wanted to. (If you missed that album, give it a listen.) All through his illness, I checked for news on his condition daily, and then my fears came to pass April 7. I learned that evening that he had not made it. He had succumbed.

I felt devastated. I realized then how much more than an inspiration John Prine was to me. His presence and his music reached deep into my childhood as a source of comfort and wonder. I felt hollowed out knowing he was gone.

That night, I sat with my sorrow, staying in my solitude and feeling the loss. Then a feeling of pressure building prompted me to get my guitar. I thought, “I will play a song for John Prine, to honor him and thank him for his contributions to the world.” As I tuned my guitar and strummed my thumb along the strings, I realized a song wanted to be born. It wanted to be in A major, and it wanted to show appreciation for the country folk style John Prine did so well. So, I did my best to serve it, to help it find its way into the world. I tried to stay out of the way and let it come forth.

Below is the song I wrote that night. It’s a personal song about a relationship I had with an amazing artist and human whom I never met other than to attend concerts where he was on stage and I was in the audience. I hope, even though it’s close and personal, that it offers some universal comfort to all of you living with loss right now. The loss of cultural leaders like John Prine, and the loss of people who held no widespread fame, and yet inspired and contributed to the people in their world.

The song is one response to the question I keep asking myself, “How do we respond to so much loss, so much anguish? How? How do we cope under the pressure of this horrid situation?” I hear and see other answers to this question every day, beautiful answers that illustrate human kindness and resilience. For me resilience has always been connected to song. So, here is a simple phone recording of my song for all of us missing John Prine and others whose voices have gone quiet after death. Wishing you all comfort now and always. With special thanks to Prine in appreciation of his work and his warmth as he chronicled the human condition.

Play the video to hear the song. The photo is one I had of me around the age when I started wondering how to write songs. It was so happy my uncle (also pictured) had come to visit. 


 

In the Silence (c) April 8, 2020 by Kaia Fowler, Verdant Indigo Productions
(for John Prine)

In the silence after you are gone,
I think of all the ones who died like you.
I think how there was no one else who lived like you,
And I wonder what you would do if you were me and I were you.

If you had grown up sad and lonely,
A little lost, a little scared,
A lot different, always the new kid,
Friends with poems, tunes, and prayers.
And then the car stereo played a song I wrote
About the beauty and the loss
Of a forsaken childhood Paradise,
And how we could not bear the cost.

In the silence after you are gone,
I think of all the ones who died like you.
I think how there was no one else who lived like you,
And I wonder what you would do if you were me and I were you.

I have no doubt you would write a better song than this,
Something with a twist of fun.
Maybe a joke about St. Peter
Or how it feels when your race is run.
But, dear John, this is all I have left in me.
My chest is hollow as a drum.
My face is wet with tears through we never met.
I’m grieving for all that’s said and done.

In the silence after you are gone,
I think of all the ones who are dying like you.
I think how there was no one else who lived like you,
And I wonder what you would do if you were me and I were you.

You showed us how to look pain in the face,
To love harmony and humanness,
To say yes to love and no to war,
And to wish our exes all the best.
Your music is one thing I hold on to
When this living feels too hard to do.
Now that your breath has left this world
I feel like a broken-hearted little girl.

“Make me an angel that flies from Montgomery
Make me a poster from an old rodeo
Just give me one thing” to hold onto before you go.
Please John, give me one more song to help me cope now that you are gone.

Delayed but not forgotten

The benefit EP album I recorded last winter has been delayed by injury and other unforeseen events, but  All the Way  is still on the way.

What’s going on now and what’s coming up this fall/winter:

  • Final designs are being completed for the album case – a 6 panel wallet featuring black and white photos by professional photographer Scott R. Jaeger, my husband and the man who inspired this album through his experience living with and dying from pancreatic cancer.
  • Once the design is completed, I plan to make a video and set up a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to pay to have the CDs manufactured.
  • Following that will be CD release parties and a series of concerts I am in the process of scheduling.

 

How you can help:

  • If you have a location near you that you would like to see me do a show at, please forward the name of the place along with a link to their website, if you know it, to me at kaiafowler @ gmail.com.
  • Watch for word on the Kickstarter campaign and support it at whatever level you can. Then share it with everyone you know.

 

Thanks always for your continued support of my creative work. You give it meaning.

Want to listen to the song sample sneak-previews of the new album?

Here they are:

All The Way

Quirky website! Click the triangle to play even if it still says “loading.”

 

Where The Water Meets the Land

Again, click the triangle to play even if it still says “loading.”

 

Until next time,

Kaia