Country Music, and Covid-19

Updated: Oct 11

These past couple of weeks have been nothing short of hellacious for us country music fans, and the world. I was literally just working on Honky Tonkin' Part II when I saw the news roll in concerning John Prine. I was really rooting for him. He was a poet, a humanitarian, and a funny guy. I especially appreciated his injections of humor in his music.. Though John's lyrical prose rivaled Proust, it was his humor that touched me, as it did so many.

I was first introduced to John Prine by reading the liner notes from an old 90's Bonnie Raitt album. I was really surprised when I poked around some more, and found that he had written several songs I had enjoyed that were recorded by other artists. "That's The Way The World Goes 'Round", "Paradise", and "You Never Even Call Me By My Name" for starters. He thought the latter might offend country music fans and opted to be left off of the credits.

Despite not having much commercial success, he was revered as a songwriter's songwriter, and highly respected. I especially liked a tweet that came from Bruce Springsteen upon hearing about John's passing.

John was always classified as a Folk artist, but a lot of his music sure sounded like country music to me.. He will be missed, but I am incredibly grateful for his 25 albums we can listen to. I think it's very easy to forget to laugh in the midst of all the tragedy that surrounds us as we push through Cov-19. #RIPJohn, and thank you for bringing a smile to my face when I thought I could not.

John Prine(October 10, 1946 – April 7, 2020)

And last week while I was enjoying The Tennessee Jet Gospel Show on Facebook Live one of the artists that gave me renewed hope in country music was passing into the afterlife.

Joe Diffie just had the perfect blend of cry in your beer, and honky tonk attitude to keep us tapping our toes.. His voice was beyond compare at times he was digging deep in his baritone well of awesomeness. Yet other times his voice rang as high, and clear as a bell..Boundless..

In Joe's decorated career he earned platinum certifications for both Honky Tonk Attitude, and Third Rock From The Sun. He also won two Grammy Awards, and one ACM Award. What a missed opportunity this past Sunday, when the ACM only briefly mentioned Joe Diffie's passing. Not one song in tribute to the man who owned traditional country music in the 90's..

I am grateful Dustin Sonnier paid tribute to Joe Diffie here. Dustin has an amazing voice, and you can tell he is a true fan of traditional country music. I still can't listen to "Almost Home", but this song is also one of my all-time favorites, and provides a great perspective on life.

Joseph Logan Diffie (December 28, 1958 – March 29, 2020)

It seems as if we just had a cluster of amazing artists leave the planet in a span of a few short weeks. Kenny Rogers was the first to go on March 21, and a few days later Grand Ole Opry star Jan Howard joined the heavenly choir too. Jan's life held so many tragedies that there is little wonder where her emotive singing style came from. She was the 8th child in a family of eleven. The family moved several times due to her daddy's work as a brick mason. At the tender age of eight, she was raped by a family friend. She did not tell a soul, and lived with the traumatic effects of the experience her entire life.

Jan dropped out of high school to help support the family. At 16 she got married for the first time, and married a total of four times. She eventually married a budding songwriter by the name of Harlan Howard. One day, Harlan came home early, and found Jan singing. He did not know, she could actually sing. Jan was scared to death about singing in front of people..

Unfortunately Jan had several depressive episodes in her life. Harlan Howard admitted her to a psychiatric hospital for treatment. In her biography, she recalls Mother Maybelle feeding her as she recovered. To make matters worse after over ten years of marriage, Jan found Harlan in bed with another woman which effectively ended the marriage in 1967.

But by then, Jan's legacy was firmly established charting over 20 hits including a number one song with Whisperin' Bill Anderson. Jan was also a respected songwriter whose songs were recorded by Connie Smith, Tammy Wynette, and Kitty Wells to name a few. Additionally,she was the recipient of several BMI songwriting awards. I don't know, if we can say her success overshadowed the pain. What we can absolutely say is that Jan's impassioned, and gritty vocal delivery came from real-life experience. Just like George said, you have to live it.

Interesting Fact

Jan Howard was the demo singer on "I Fall To Pieces", a song Patsy Cline took to #1.

(Born Lula Grace Johnson; March 13, 1929 – March 28, 2020)

Joe Diffie, and John Prine were both victims of Covid-19. As a Gen X'r, I have never seen anything like this. The closest was when Hurricane Irma rolled through Florida. It did not make direct contact in my neck of the woods, but I certainly experienced the after effects.

For example, I had no power for two weeks. The gas stations were sitting on empty for several days as it wasn't safe for the petroleum trucks to travel into Florida. There were literally hundreds of cars stranded on the different highways, and pumps with no way of moving.

"Potentially, the largest evacuation in US History". CNN

Everyone was trying to flee from Florida at the same time. Some reports indicated that it was the largest mass evacuation in U.S. history! I remember hearing the hurricane winds wrap around the corners of the house, and it made a whistling sound when it turned. The structure shook, and I thought we'd get pulled right out of the ground.

Though Covid-19 is not a natural disaster, it sure has similar results. Globally, the death count as of 4/9/2020 is over 95k! And though it appears to be fatal to a very specific segment of the population, it is spread so easily that we must all do our part to not perpetuate this malady. Covid-19 has changed the way we engage, and live our every day lives. Case in point are the masks being used to stay safe during this pandemic. As the virus can be contracted by breathing in a microbe, now the masks are seen as a fashion statement or status symbol. Check out the story here.

With all of this being said, it is absolutely heartbreaking to see the loss of life especially at these levels. It's also disconcerting to me the hyperbolic misinformation decimated across platforms. I especially worry about the elderly population that are susceptible to this disease, and are often the targets of unscrupulous scams.

The CDC is the best source of information concerning Covid-19. Also talk to your primary physician on ways you can stay safe. The White House also conducts a live daily briefing at

6:00 PM (EST). More importantly, please reach out to loved ones. Do not go through this alone. Social media is great for connecting with others during these precarious times.

I have also included other links below that can be helpful.

And though I've said this a million times, but it bares repeating listen to great country music!

Country music has been there for me in every life changing event. Country music is about real life, the good, bad, and the ugly. It can be your friend till the very end. Also reading a Psalm out of the good book can't hurt either.

Y'all George Jones can get you through almost anything. Give this one a spin, and follow me on Twitter @until_sana. 😊👍

Suicide Prevention Hotline: tel:1-800-273-8255

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