Folk singer-songwriter John Prine explained in a Performing Songwriter
interview how this track was sparked from a John Lennon tune and evolved into a poignant song about growing old:
"I heard the John Lennon song 'Across The Universe
,' and he had a lot of reverb on his voice. I was thinking about hollering into a hollow log, trying to get through to somebody - 'Hello in there.' That was the beginning thought, then it went to old people
I've always had an affinity for old people. I used to help a buddy with his newspaper route, and I delivered to a Baptist old peoples home where we'd have to go room-to-room. And some of the patients would kind of pretend that you were a grandchild or nephew that had come to visit, instead of the guy delivering papers. That always stuck in my head.
It was all that stuff together, along with that pretty melody. I don't think I've done a show without singing 'Hello in There.' Nothing in it wears on me."