John Prine – Dear Abby

It’s hard not to like John Prine. This is a brilliant song…for him to think of this and write about it shows he thinks outside of the box. The song is included on the album “Sweet Revenge” released in 1973… it peaked at #135.

I have a one John Prine story. A friend of mine named Chris went to see John Prine and Arlo Guthrie in the ’90s and met John in the parking lot after the concert. Prine was really talkative and asked Chris if he could boost his car off…which, of course, he did. Chris told me he was really down to earth and a genuinely nice guy.

Dear Abby for those of you who may be too young to remember was an American Advice Columnist. Her real name was Pauline Phillips who went under the pen name “Abigail Van Buren”. people would write in and tell her their troubles and she would answer back in the newspaper. Her daughter, Jeanne Phillips, now owns the legal rights to the pen name.

From Songfacts

Prine’s song about an assortment of miserable people who write letters to the renowned advice columnist was recorded during a live gig at New York’s State University after a studio session didn’t pan out. Prine explained in an interview with Performing Songwriter: “The studio version of that was cut with a band, and it was real stiff and humorless. We cut it once, live, and that was it. That was the power of the song, in the way people would turn their heads the minute I’d get to the first verse, the first chords. That was the reason we used the live version.”

Prine found inspiration when he happened upon a “Dear Abby” column while on a trip to Rome, Italy. He said: 

“I was in Europe and my first wife and I stopped in Rome for the day. I wanted a newspaper and all they had was the International Herald Tribune which is all the tragic news in the world crammed into six pages with no sports results and no comics. And yet here’s ‘Dear Abby.’ She was the only relief in the whole paper. and that’s where I wrote most of the song – in Rome, Italy that is.”

“Years later somebody took the verse about the guy whose stomach makes noises, wrote it just out of kilter enough so it didn’t rhyme, and send it to ‘Dear Abby.’ And she answered it in her column. She suggested that he seek professional help. She got loads of letters from people who knew the song and told her she’d been had.”

Dear Abby

Dear Abby, dear Abby
My feet are too long
My hair’s falling out and my rights are all wrong
My friends they all tell me that I’ve no friends at all
Won’t you write me a letter, won’t you give me a call
Signed bewildered

Bewildered, bewildered

You have no complaint
You are what your are and you ain’t what you ain’t
So listen up buster, and listen up good
Stop wishing for bad luck and knocking on wood

Dear Abby, dear Abby
My fountain pen leaks
My wife hollers at me and my kids are all freaks
Every side I get up on is the wrong side of bed
If it weren’t so expensive I’d wish I were dead
Signed unhappy

Unhappy, unhappy

Dear Abby, dear Abby
You won’t believe this
But my stomach makes noises whenever I kiss
My girlfriend tells me it’s all in my head
But my stomach tells me to write you instead
Signed noise-maker

Noise-maker, noise-maker

Dear Abby, dear Abby
Well I never thought
That me and my girlfriend would ever get caught
We were sitting in the back seat just shooting the breeze
With her hair up in curlers and her pants to her knees
Signed just married

Just married, just married


Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

23 thoughts on “John Prine – Dear Abby”

  1. He was insightful. The lyrics are fun but also speak for the many ways people suffer in silence. He’s a genius like that. The bit about the stomach noise verse becoming an actual letter is hilarious.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well it is a kidney stone for sure…they confirmed it today. The pain is better as long as I don’t move. I’m working from home…hopefully tomorrow I’ll know what they are gonna do.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Btw-off topic slightly but I just watched a Netflix doc called ‘Imagine Peace’, about making of Imagine. Lots of archival footage & current interviews with Yoko, Julian, John’s secretary etc. Pretty good watching if you haven’ t seen it already

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I thought it was rather cool, and was surprised they had so much footage from the studio etc. Although at times he could be annoying, all in all the movie impressed me …. particularly the Vietnam veteran visit. It was kind of sweet too seeing how Yoko looked at him back then.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh yea the guy in the garden? I’ve seen that clip before…it’s sad but John was really cool to him.
        That was during the time that John and Paul were at the height of fighting with each other.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. yes, some kind of spaced out Viet vet who shows up at Lennon’s gate and John and Yoko talk kindly to him and try to convince him there was no hidden agenda in his lyrics, then invite the guy in for a meal. Not many stars would do that! By the way, when I looked for a trailer, seems like the title is “Above Us Only Sky” although I thought “Imagine Peace” ran at start of end credits…

        Liked by 1 person

      4. In 88 I saw Imagine in the theatres and they showed that guy. It was really sad and John handled it well. I’ve read where John and George were two of the nicest to fans of all of them. Paul grins and does it but Ringo is by far the worse. Paul even said that.
        I will watch it in the next week. Thanks for sharing Dave…whenever you see something like this let me know. I love seeing new things.


  3. This song is a blast to the past. I remember there was only one radio station around that played these kinds of songs, and it was on FM. We grew up listening to AM. When did FM start, do you know? I never knew this was John Prine (or forgot) but the song is brilliant without being overstated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I never heard it on radio. Chris got me listening to Prine. Him and Arlo….that would be a great tour to see.
      He is so old sounding…when he was young.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Good way of putting it. Chris? I first heard Arlo on a variety album of songs where I babysat. The guy had a great record collection and I played his albums the whole time I babysat there as the kids were almost always outside playing.


      1. Dylan is a fan of this guy. He is different though…not for everyone. His big song was Sam Stone.
        I get what you are saying though.


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