PARADISE

Posted on Posted in Breedloves's Folk Songs

PARADISE

“Paradise” is a song written by John Prine for his father, and recorded for his 1971 debut album, John Prine. Prine also re-recorded the song for his 1986 album, German Afternoons. The song is about the devastating impact of strip mining for coal, whereby the top layers of soil are blasted off with dynamite to reach the coal seam below. The song is also about what happened to the area around the Green River in Kentucky because of the strip mining. The song references the Peabody Coal Company, and a town called Paradise in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky where Tennessee Valley Authority now operates a coal-fired power plant. The area has suffered serious economic downturn because of the decline of coal mining.

When I was a child my family would travel
Down to Western Kentucky where my parents were born
And there’s a backwards old town that’s often remembered
So many times that my memories are worn

And daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I’m sorry my son, but you’re too late in asking
Mister Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away
Well, sometimes we’d travel right down the Green River
To the abandoned old prison down by Airdrie Hill
Where the air smelled like snakes and we’d shoot with our pistols
But empty pop bottles was all we would kill

Then the coal company came with the world’s largest shovel
And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land
Well, they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken
Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man

When I die let my ashes float down the Green River
Let my soul roll on up to the Rochester dam
I’ll be halfway to Heaven with Paradise waitin’
Just five miles away from wherever I am