Sam Stone (song)
|Song by John Prine|
|from the album John Prine|
|Recorded||American Recording Studios, Memphis, Tennessee|
|John Prine track listing|
"Sam Stone" is a song written by John Prine about a drug-addicted veteran with a Purple Heart and his death by overdose. It appeared on Prine's eponymous 1971 debut album. The song was originally titled "Great Society Conflict Veteran's Blues".
The most familiar refrain in the song is "There's a hole in daddy's arm, where all the money goes."
The song is usually interpreted as a reference to the phenomenon of heroin or morphine addiction among Vietnam war veterans. (An identical surge of addiction followed the Civil War, where morphine addiction was known as 'Soldiers Disease'). The song does not mention the Vietnam War, saying only that Sam returned from "serving in the conflict overseas." There is a single explicit reference to morphine but Prine alludes to heroin on several occasions including the use of the term "habit," slang commonly associated with heroin use, and the line "he popped his last balloon," very likely referring to one of the ways in which street heroin is commonly packaged – in small rubber balloons.
The song has been interpreted by numerous artists, including Swamp Dogg, Al Kooper, and Laura Cantrell, among others. Johnny Cash covered the song in a live concert, changing the line "Jesus Christ died for nothing, I suppose" to "Daddy must have hurt a lot back then, I suppose", and later "Daddy must have suffered a lot back then, I suppose".
Mentions in Print
Allusions to "Sam Stone" in other songs
Parts of the melody of "Sam Stone" were used by Roger Waters in the opening of "The Post War Dream," a song on Pink Floyd's 1983 album The Final Cut. The song is indirectly referenced in "Cop Shoot Cop...", which closes Spiritualized's 1997 album, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space – the lyrics "There's a hole in my arm where all the money goes/Jesus Christ died for nothing, I suppose," are almost identical to the memorable refrain of "Sam Stone."
- Bob Gibson on Bob Gibson 1970.
- Swamp Dogg on Cuffed, Collared, Tagged & Gassed 1972
- Al Kooper on Naked Songs 1973
- Dawnwind on Looking Back on the Future 1975
- Totta Näslund on Totta 4 - Duetterna 2001 (in Swedish, duet with Charlotte Berg)
- Laura Cantrell on Future Soundtrack for America 2004
- Tim Grimm on Names 2004
- Johnny Cash on Live from Austin, TX 2005
- Evan Dando on "Griffith Sunset EP"
"Soldier's Joy", a traditional song from the American Civil War with a similar theme, about morphine and opium. The chorus runs "25 cents for the whiskey, 15 cents for the beer/25 cents for the morphine, gonna get me out of here."
- Laurin Penland (November 18, 2011). "John Prine: A Look Back At One Man's War". NPR Music. Retrieved June 4, 2014.
- "Special Investigations Heroin". Archived from the original on August 14, 2011. Retrieved September 11, 2011.
- "Five Good Covers: Sam Stone (John Prine)". Retrieved January 24, 2018.
- "Johnny Cash singing Sam Stone". Retrieved June 13, 2017.
- Andy Greene. "Readers' Poll: The 10 Saddest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 4, 2014.