Earlier this year, the songwriting legend John Prine came back with the new album The Tree Of Forgiveness, on which he shows why so many of his peers have revered him for so long. One of the songs from The Tree Of Forgiveness is “When I Get To Heaven,” a wry vision of what Prine thinks he might do immediately after dying. (Among other things, he plans to “smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long.”) When you’re 72 years old, as Prine is, that probably becomes a pressing concern.
On the promo tour for The Tree Of Forgiveness, Prine has showed levels of showmanship that I couldn’t have predicted. When he was on Colbert earlier this year, Prine performed with Sturgill Simpson and Brandi Carlile. And last night on The Tonight Show, Prine performed with his band, but he also had some help. On the song’s old-timey jazz break, Jimmy Fallon and all the members of the Roots sat in, all of them playing kazoo.
In a live setting, the song turns out to be an ideal showcase for Prine’s easygoing charm — he turns into a stand-up comic on a few spoken-word bits — and his wizened husk of a voice. And those goofy kazoo bits did serve to make a special performance even more special. Watch it below.
The Tree Of Forgiveness is out now on Oh Boy Records.