John Prine celebrates 20 years of "In Spite of Ourselves”

Article Contributed by Sacks and Company | Published on Friday, September 27, 2019

Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of John Prine’s beloved album, In Spite of Ourselves, which was originally released September 28, 1999 on Prine’s own independent label, Oh Boy Records. Prine’s first release after beating cancer, the 16-song record features a collection of duets with some of Prine’s favorite female country artists including the breakthrough title track—a duet with Iris DeMent. In the 20 years since it came out, “In Spite Of Ourselves” has become Prine’s most successful song with over 40 million streams. Watch the song’s official music video HERE.

In celebration of the anniversary, a new 2-song EP, Sittin’ On A Rainbow, featuring the remastered version of “In Spite Of Ourselves” along with “Who’s Gonna Take The Garbage Out” (featuring Iris DeMent from For Better, or Worse) is now available at all digital services (purchase/stream here). Also available today is a limited-edition, pink vinyl of In Spite of Ourselves, released as part of the “Ten Bands One Cause” vinyl campaign. Proceeds from the release benefit Gilda’s Club NYC—a charity that provides support for cancer patients and their loved ones (purchase here).

Produced by Jim Rooney, In Spite of Ourselves features collaborations with DeMent along with Connie Smith, Lucinda Williams, Trisha Yearwood, Melba Montgomery, Emmylou Harris, Dolores Keane, Patty Loveless and John’s wife, Fiona Prine. 

Reflecting on making the record, Prine shares,

“‘In Spite of Ourselves’ was the first thing I wrote that resembled work since my cancer. I had so much radiation in my throat area, I couldn’t sing. I could talk, but I didn’t have any power in my voice. I’d been kicking around the idea of a female duets record for a while, so I made a list of two or three women per song until I had a list of about 35. I only expected one out of five would want to do it…but the first nine I called said yes.”

Rooney adds,

“We started recording at Jack’s Tracks and knocked out the first duets with Iris, Melba and Connie. John had one more tour to do before the holidays, so we paused recording. When he got back, he noticed a little sore that had developed on his neck, and when he got it checked, he learned he had neck cancer. Everything came to a halt as John and Fiona left for Houston for John to get the surgery and radiation. The prognosis was good, but no one knew if he would ever be able to sing again. 

It took John a while to recover, including hiring a trainer who would make him run up and down stairs and then put a guitar on and try to sing, but slowly his voice came back. During the end of his recovery, Billy Bob Thornton asked John to be a part of a film he was making, Daddy and Them. Billy Bob and Marty Stuart (who was putting together some of the music) asked John to write a song for the movie. He came up with ‘In Spite of Ourselves’ and asked Iris to sing the female part. 

That December, John played the song for me in his car. I was laughing because the song was so funny, such a quirky John Prine song; I was crying because John was singing! I just looked at John and said, ‘You’re back! Your voice is back!’ and he smiled his biggest ever John Prine smile. It was one of the happiest days of my life. We soon jumped right back into the studio to finish what we had started nearly a year earlier. We had learned a big lesson in patience.” 

Prine is currently in the midst of an extensive worldwide tour including an upcoming date at Hollywood’s John Anson Ford Amphitheatre as well as newly confirmed shows next summer at Louisville’s Louisville Palace (two nights) and Vienna’s Wolf Trap. Additionally, Prine’s All The Best Fest—a destination concert vacation—will take place at the all-inclusive Breathless + Now Onyx Resorts in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic November 11-15, 2019. See below for complete details.

The landmark anniversary comes after a monumental series of years for Prine following the release of his critically acclaimed new album, The Tree of Forgiveness, which is out now on Oh Boy Records (purchase/stream here). Produced by Grammy Award winning producer Dave Cobb, the album is Prine’s first release featuring new material in over 13 years and debuted at #5 on the Billboard 200 chart with over 54,000 equivalent albums sold in its first week—a career high chart position and sales week for the legendary singer, songwriter and performer. The album also debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Americana/Folk Albums chart, #2 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart and #2 on Billboard’s Rock Albums chart. Adding to his remarkable year, Prine was officially inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame earlier this spring, received three GRAMMY nominations and received two awards at the 2019 Americana Music Association Honors & Awards: Album of the Year (The Tree of Forgiveness) and Song of the Year (“Summer’s End” written by Prine and Pat McLaughlin).

A two-time Grammy-winner, Prine is among the English language’s premier phrase-turners. Almost 50 years into a remarkable career that has drawn effusive praise from Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt, Roger Waters, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen and others who would know, Prine is a smiling, shuffling force for good. He is a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member and a PEN New England Lyrics Award recipient whose classic debut album, simply titled John Prine, is recognized as part of the Recording Academy’s Grammy Hall of Fame and whose songs have been recorded by Johnny Cash, Carly Simon, Bette Midler, Bonnie Raitt, Norah Jones, George Strait, Miranda Lambert, Zac Brown Band and many others.

Following the 2015 death of his friend and business partner Al Bunetta, Prine is now President and sole owner of Oh Boy Records. He lives in Nashville, TN with his wife, Fiona, and enjoys spending time with their three sons, a daughter-in-law and his grandchildren.


1. “(We’re Not) The Jet Set” featuring Iris DeMent

2. “So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)” featuring Connie Smith

3. “Wedding Bells” featuring Lucinda Williams

4. “Let’s Turn Back The Years” featuring Lucinda Williams

5. “When Two Worlds Collide” featuring Trisha Yearwood

6. “Milwaukee, Here I Come” featuring Melba Montgomery

7. “I Know One” featuring Emmylou Harris

8. “Cheatin’ Situation” featuring Dolores Keane

9. “Back Street Affair” featuring Patty Loveless

10. “Loose Talk” featuring Connie Smith

11. “Let’s Invite Them Over” featuring Iris DeMent

12. “Til A Tear Becomes A Rose” featuring Fiona Prine

13. “In A Town This Size” featuring Dolores Keane

14. “We Could” featuring Iris DeMent

15. “We Must Have Been Out Of Our Minds” featuring Melba Montgomery

16. “In Spite Of Ourselves” featuring Iris DeMent

17. “Dear John” (John solo)