Music

'In Spite of Ourselves': The Story Behind John Prine and Iris DeMent's Sweet and Funny Duet

John Prine and Iris DeMent performing at Town Hall on Thursday night, September 16, 1999.(Photo by Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images)

John Prine is one of the most beloved songwriters in Nashville. His songs have been cut by country music stars like Johnny Cash ("Sam Stone"), Bette Midler ("Hello in There"), Bonnie Raitt ("Angel from Montgomery"), Zac Brown Band ("All the Best"), Miranda Lambert ("That's the Way the World Goes Round") and George Strait ("I Just Want to Dance with You"). He's even an uncredited co-writer on the classic "You Never Even Call Me by My Name." To date, one of his most successful records was his 13th studio album, In Spite of Ourselves, released in 1999.

The title track was written for the Billy Bob Thornton movie Daddy and Them, in which Prine co-starred. Thornton asked Prine to write a song for the film's ending credits.

"Me and Billy Bob Thornton play brothers in it and Andy Griffith is our dad. So that makes me, like Opie's stepbrother," Prine joked about his role in the film. "So Billy Bob asked me to write a song for the ending of the movie....I based it loosely, real loosely, on a couple of the characters in the film."

When writing the song, Prine knew Iris DeMent was the perfect voice for the duet. Prine and DeMent went into the studio to record the duet, and Prine just never stopped. So, the record was made.

In Spite of Ourselves features duets with many well-known female folk and country artists. The record was Prine's first release since successfully battling throat cancer. His duet partners included DeMent, Connie Smith, Lucinda Williams, Trisha Yearwood, Melba Montgomery, Emmylou Harris, Dolores Keane, Patty Loveless, and his wife, Fiona Prine.

For the 20th anniversary of the record, John Prine reminisced on making the record, "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."

A few of those nine were able to share videos of what they remember from making the acclaimed record:

 

 

Prine would go on to release another duets album, For Better or Worse, featuring collaborations with Kacey Musgraves, Miranda Lambert, Lee Ann Womack and more, in 2016.

In Spite of Ourselves tracklist:

"(We're Not) The Jet Set" w/ Iris DeMent

"So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad) w/ Connie Smith

"Wedding Bells/Let's Turn Back the Years" w/ Lucinda Williams

"When Two Worlds Collide" w/ Trisha Yearwood

"Milwaukee, Here I Come" w/ Melba Montgomery

"I Know One" w/ Emmylou Harris

"It's a Cheating Situation" w/ Dolores Keane

"Back Street Affair" w/ Patty Loveless

"Loose Talk" w/ Connie Smith

"Let's Invite Them Over" w/ Iris DeMent

"'Til a Tear Becomes a Rose" w/ Fiona Prine

"In A Town This Size" w/ Dolores Keane

"We Could" w/ Iris DeMent

"We Must Have Been Out of Our Minds" w/ Melba Montgomery

"In Spite Of Ourselves" w/ Iris DeMent

"Dear John (I Sent Your Saddle Home)"

 

 

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'In Spite of Ourselves': The Story Behind John Prine and Iris DeMent's Sweet and Funny Duet