“Dear Abby,” aka Abigail Van Buren, aka Pauline Esther Friedman Phillips, mother to Jeanne Phillips, aka “Dear Abby,” and twin sister to Esther Pauline “Eppie” Friedman Lederer, aka “Ann Landers,” died today.

(Complicated, nein?)

Like many female writers of her time who were relegated to reporting on home affairs – how to get out stains, how to bake better bread, and the like – Phillips was able to break into the newspaper business by writing an advice column and of course, in her case it stuck. Really stuck. And her twin sister also did it (as Ann Landers), and her daughter eventually would, too (as Dear Abby II).

According to the company that syndicates “Dear Abby,” when asked what she considered her greatest accomplishment, Phillips was quick to say simply, “surviving.” Surviving. Seems fitting, then, that John Prine wrote a song to her, since most of his songs are about that very thing.

I saw Prine last summer at the Zoo, and it seems odd to listen to his 1973 rendition from Old Grey Whistle Test without also hearing the chuckles coming from the audience after he delivers quip after quip after quip.

(BTW, can I get a “Whoa” for Prine’s 1973 hair? Seriously. Whoa. And I’m pretty sure my husband submitted that Dear Abby letter signed “Noisemaker” because that happens to him, too. As to whether his hair is occasionally “Whoa”-worthy – no comment.)

john prine