Illegal Smile By John Prine

John Prine

1971 | Country

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“Won't you please tell the man I didn't kill anyone. -- No I'm just tryin' to have me some fun."


  • A part of Chicago's folk revival, he was discovered by Kris Kristofferson.
  • In 2003, the album was ranked number 452 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
  • Prine on the lyrics: "Illegal Smile" was "not about smokin’ dope. It was more about how, ever since I was a child, I had this view of the world where I can find myself smiling at stuff nobody else was smiling at. But it was such a good anthem for dope smokers that I didn’t want to stop every time I played it and make a disclaimer."


Luke Tatum

This song has apparently been adopted by dope smokers. I can't say I disagree, when you look at the lyrics. An "illegal smile" must be something illegal that makes you happy, right? I guess not, but it's fun to think of things that way. These days, it seems like the whole of society has lost its sense of humor. Everything is a dead-serious struggle for the "fate of humanity," and every election is the "most important one of our lifetime," and every ridiculous law about who gets access to what welfare in what amount is a perfect litmus test to determine if you are "evil," or "good," (for now.) So maybe we should just take this song as a reminder to stop, take a deep breath, and smile. Especially if the mainstream tells you not to.

Sherry Voluntary

This song might not have been about “dope” as Mr. Prine put it, but it sure does line up super nicely with it. Honestly, it lines up so well, that I have a hard time believing him when he says it wasn’t about that. Either way, it is great to point to the idea that if there is no victim, there is no crime, and one cannot victimize themselves when they make a decision about themselves, be it good or bad. I put it this way to my statist friends. Even if people needed to be saved from themselves, The State would be the last entity that should be involved in that. I may not like every decision a person makes, but if they are not harming another, then I need to put on my big girl britches and stay out of their business. Just what is so difficult about leaving other people alone?

Nicky P

I'm gonna live out my days believing the illegal smile Prine had was the knowledge that everyone misinterpreted his song and that's just fine. We all see what we need to in art. Its amusing knowing that what was taken for a song about breaking the law to smoke weed was really a song about the inviolability of our personal feelings. No matter what they do or say about us outside we control the way we think and feel. To me, mastery of self is at the core of everything libertarian. All the energy wasted on trying to master the outside world is a waste and should be turned inward or not. It's your decision to maintain being a lump or not. Great song at any rate.

Created By
Nicky P