The Poetry of Rock: “Angel from Montgomery” by John Prine



For a couple of years, the idea has been kicked around the Media Bunker that we need to do a series of posts on the Poetry of Rock. We’re the type that really listens to music, all of it—the intros, the solos, the backing vocals, and the words, especially the words. 

There are plenty who love music, but really don’t do the deep dive into the lyrics, where so much of the soul and message of a song live.

We do, because so much of the magic of music is in the lyrics. Everyone knows a song that could be great, but the lyrics hold it back…..for a song to be complete, to be totally great, it’s got to have both a great tune and outstanding musicianship and great lyrics. The bar is high.

Most of us were introduced to poetry in school at some level but eventually moved away/on from it as we got older. When was the last time you actually bought a book of poetry, by anyone?

But poetry’s still here, a bigger part of our lives than you would image if you just recognize that it now comes wrapped in music as the lyrics of the songs we hear all around us. Like all art, beauty is in the eye (or the ear) of the beholder. Some lyrics are great, some are nonsense, and some are unforgettable and legendary. Here in the media bunker, we lean in to the unforgettable and legendary, and so it’s time to resurrect the “Poetry of Rock” series (and we are including all forms of music in the Rock category, just to keep it simple) and so will be bringing out some examples of the great lyrics that accompanies great music (and vice versa) to show our appreciation for the genius level art that can surround us, if we just look a bit, do a drill down. 

This post was brought to the top of the editorial calendar by one event: the death of singer/songwriter John Prine. Prine was a humble man with an uncommon gift—he was one of the very best songwriters of his generation, good enough that he was someone Bob Dylan listened to. That’s good.  You can read about Prine’s life in this obituary from The New York Times. It’s well worth your time, as is this editorial from the Times that focuses (with performances)  on a key selection of John Prine’s best songs

One of Prine’s very best songs–and he had a bunch of them–was the song “Angel from Montgomery”. The lyrics are below:

I am an old woman named after my mother
My old man is another child that’s grown old
If dreams were lightning, thunder were desire
This old house would have burnt down a long time ago
Make me an angel that flies from Montgomery
Make me a poster of an old rodeo
Just give me one thing that I can hold on to
To believe in this living is just a hard way to go
When I was a young girl well, I had me a cowboy
He weren’t much to look at, just free rambling man
But that was a long time and no matter how I try
The years just flow by like a broken down dam
Make me an angel that flies from Montgomery
Make me a poster of an old rodeo
Just give me one thing that I can hold on to
To believe in this living is just a hard way to go
There’s flies in the kitchen I can hear

–John Prine

The song is mournful, painful, biographical, real, raw. The lyrics are short, the poetry is brief, but what’s not included in word is implied by its absence. It is, in short, a bit of a miracle. To fully grasp the genius of Prine is to hear his music performed, and one of the very best versions of this song is the one by Bonnie Raitt. But to add to the depth, we managed to find a live performance, by Bonnie with Prine, that you will find quite marvelous.

John Prine gave us a lifetime of great music. No better time than now to stop and appreciate it.  




The Fine Print:  Photo provided courtesy of our friends at, who have the photographic history of the 20th and 21st century on file. The photo has not been altered in any way and all rights belong to Getty Images and/or their designate.  Performance of “Angel from Montgomery” by John Prine and Bonnie Raitt courtesy of YouTube and Austin City Limits. Bonnie Raitt solo version of the song provided via our friends at Spotify. We thank them for sharing. Text and Post produced by the Media Bunker and Perception Engineering. We thank the researchers and site programmers for digging through the code to get this one up, after a software upgrade challenged everything. Unless otherwise noted, all rights (c)donald pierce and Southchester Group LLC. Got comments? Got you covered. Drop us a note via the comment feedback. Thanks for reading and stay home. 

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