NPR turns 50 this year, and we're marking it by looking back on some other things that happened in 1971. It was that year that songwriter John Prine released his debut album. Prine died in 2020.



NPR started broadcasting 50 years ago, in 1971. You know what else happened in 1971? A promising songwriter named John Prine released his debut album. He died last year at the age of 73. Here's NPR's Ann Powers.

ANN POWERS, BYLINE: John Prine was this 24-year-old guy living in Chicago who'd recently gotten out of the Army. He was carrying mail for a living. He started playing out in the clubs in Chicago. And one night the great songwriter Kris Kristofferson came in after John had finished his set. John got up on stage, played another set just for Kris and a few other people, and Kris Kristofferson was blown away. And that led to a record deal and Prine's magnificent recording debut.


JOHN PRINE: (Singing) I am an old woman named after my mother. My old man is another child that's grown old.

POWERS: I think the thing about John Prine - and you can totally hear it throughout this record - is that he has so much humor, and he hooks you in with that and also with his storytelling skills. And then he just gently reaches in and pulls out your heart.


PRINE: (Singing) The years just flow by like a broken-down dam. Make me an angel that flies from Montgomery.

POWERS: John Prine's debut album basically made him a legend among singer-songwriters. And one of the people listening was Bonnie Raitt. And she soon recorded "Angel From Montgomery," and it became a hit.

BONNIE RAITT: It's a timeless masterpiece. For John to have captured that other generation's despair, the hopelessness of - how the hell can a person go to work in the morning and come home and have nothing to say? - you know, it's the reason I didn't want to get married.


PRINE: (Singing) Make me an angel that flies from Montgomery.

POWERS: And that's the crazy thing about John Prine's 1971 debut. It is just one classic after another, not just "Angel From Montgomery," but "Sam Stone," "Hello In There," "Paradise." And today, 50 years later, it's - remains a beloved classic that continues to inspire and influence so many of us.

MARTIN: And a very cool thing is happening today at 2 p.m. Eastern time. Ann Powers will be in conversation with the one and only Bonnie Raitt about this album. It'll be on NPR Music's YouTube channel.


PRINE: (Singing) And I ain't done nothing since I woke up today. How the hell can a person... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.