John Prine – “Day Is Done”

      2 Comments on John Prine – “Day Is Done”

“Racing in the Street” is probably my favorite Springsteen song. I have never and likely will never race in the street. I’m not particularly interested in cars. I don’t even like driving. Yet somehow, that song resonates with me. Why? Well, I think racing is a metaphor for restlessness and that is something I understand.

John Prine’s “Day Is Done” also manages to reach me despite me not being able to relate to the subject matter. In fact, I pretty much abhor the subject matter and don’t find a whole lot of sympathy for cheaters. But Prine makes these cheaters’ story relatable somehow and I find some romantic notion in their predicament. Maybe it is a metaphor for being stuck in general, something that I think gets to most of us as we age. Maybe it is just that they want something they can’t have, something that exists in the moment that they carve their names in a tree and is gone when they set the tree afire. Maybe it’s the tragedy of having to choose. Maybe it is just that John Prine was able to create something beautiful out of something ugly.

About bobvinyl

bobvinyl, writer and co-editor of No Song is an Island, founded its predecessor, Rock and Roll and Meandering Nonsense (whose archives are found here), in 2005 and served as editor and principal contributor until it went on hiatus in 2010. He has also been published in AMP and Loud Fast Rules! (in print) as well as Glide and FensePost on the web. He has been an avid record collector since he was seven years old and enjoys sharing his love of music from the common to the esoteric.

2 thoughts on “John Prine – “Day Is Done”

  1. Chuck

    This was another new song to me, Thanks for posting it.

    There’s a childlike simplicity that contrasts with the adult theme. In the opening verse, I picture two kindergarten kids testing out the waters of whether they like each other. It’s a time in our lives when “like” is a simple and intuitive decision. There’s an innocent joy in that first verse that sets the tone for the entire song, even as it becomes intertwined with a sense of sadness.

    Maybe you’re right that it’s about being stuck or wanting something more. While that explains the sadness I don’t think it explains the joy. The best I can come up with right now is that the song captures the innocent joy of two people who like each other, and the complex emotions that arise when they decide to run with it. In many ways it’s still a simple and intuitive decision but the stakes are much higher than they were when we were sharing crayons and playing tag.

    I’m not with you that he created something beautiful out of something ugly, though. I’d venture that he recognized that human experiences are incredibly complicated even when they seem straightforward, and he wrote a beautifully simple song about something deeply complex. Or maybe I have it backwards, and it’s a beautifully complex song about something very simple.

    Having lost my dog a few months ago, I love the album cover. It captures so much about dogs. I don’t recall hearing of John Callahan but I really want to look through his cartoons after reading his Wikipedia page.

  2. bobvinyl Post author

    I think you caught something cool about the contrast between the child-like and adult aspects of the song. Maybe that is what I really like about it and just couldn’t figure out.


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