Quantcast
JOHN PRINE,
1946-2020

John Prine, the widely respected songwriter whose chronicles of the human condition held sway over generations of songwriters, died Tuesday of complications from the coronavirus at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. He was 73.

Prine was hospitalized on 3/26 with sudden onset of COVID-19 symptoms and was in critical condition on 3/28. Prine had recovered from battle with cancer in 1998, which led to him taking a year off to learn to perform again, and lung cancer in 2013. In the summer of 2019, he had to temporarily stop touring after doctors advised him he had an elevated risk for a stroke.

Prine received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award this year, was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2019 and made it onto the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ballot as well.  He was scheduled to resume touring on 5/22.

Coming of age in the post-Dylan era of songwriting, Prine married social commentary with humor over modern country and folk melodies. He wrote about what he saw in Chicago—the veterans with drug addictions, forgotten elderly people, the homeless and hopeless, people who missed out on the American dream. His songs were like short stories, detailed and realistic with unexpected dips and outcomes that separated him from the pack of ’70s songwriters who turned inward to explore universal truths.

“Prine’s stuff is pure Proustian existentialism,” Bob Dylan told The Huffington Post in 2009. “Midwestern mind-trips to the nth degree.”

During his DJ set on Sirius XM on Wednesday,  Bruce Springsteen said, “John Prine was a sweet and lovely man, and I was proud to count him as my friend. He wrote music of towering compassion with an almost unheard of precision and creativity when it came to observing the fine details of ordinary lives. He was a writer of great humor, funny, with wry sensitivity. It has marked him as a complete original. His death just makes me angry. He was simply one of the best we had, and we will miss him.” 

His early songs were better known for being recorded by others: “Hello in There” by Bette Midler, “Angel From by My Name” by David Allan Coe and John Denver’s renamed version of “Spanish Pipedream,” “Blow Up Your TV,”  to name a few.

“One of the loveliest people I was ever lucky enough to know,” Midler tweeted after his illness was announced. “He is a genius and a huge soul.”

Songs on his first two albums such as “Sam Stone,” “Illegal Smile,” “Six O’Clock News” and “The Great Compromise” led critics to herald him as “the next Dylan.”

A letter carrier in Chicago in the 1960s after a stint in the Army, he was a member of the city’s bustling folk community that included Steve Goodman and Bonnie Koloc. Upon hearing him at a Chicago club, Kris Kristofferson remarked, “It must’ve been like stumbling onto Dylan when he first busted onto the Village scene.” Kristofferson then arranged for Prine to perform for record execs at New York’s Bitter End that resulted in a contract with Atlantic Records the day after the performance.

“There was a real innocence about that first album,” Prine told HITSHolly Gleason in 2018. “But as soon as the record companies get hold of you, that wonder’s gone! You have to come up with a different kind of good, especially since when I wrote those first songs I was afraid ‘Sam Stone’ was such a weird one, people might pass it off as just about a soldier with a hole in his arm.”

Prine recorded four albums for Atlantic between 1971 and 1975 before moving to Asylum for three albums between 1978 and 1980. While all were met with positive reviews—and included significant songs such as “Spanish Pipedream,” “Christmas in Prison,” “The Hobo Song,” and “Dear Abby,” plus his cover of Roly Salley’s “Killing the Blues”—none cracked the Top 100.

In 1984, Prine became one of the first established artists to create his own label, Oh Boy Records, and he would release a baker’s dozen albums, studio and live. His last release, 2018’s The Tree of Forgiveness, debuted at #5—a career peak—and received three Grammy nominations. It led to him performing in some of the largest venues in his career on a subsequent tour.

Prine won two Grammys, Best Contemporary Folk Album for 2005’s Fair & Square, and 1991’s The Missing Years.

"We’re deeply saddened by the passing of Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter John Prine," reads a quote from Warner Chappell heads Guy Moot and Carianne Marshall. "He was a legend whose uncanny ability to channel the human experience through the art of song influenced countless artists and inspired a legion of fans. His folk and country classics span decades and have become a revered part of the American musical canon. Warner Chappell is honored to be home to many of John's extraordinary songs, and our thoughts are with his family and loved ones during this difficult time."

“We join the world in mourning the passing of revered country and folk singer/songwriter John Prine,” said Recording Academy  Interim President/CEO Harvey Mason Jr. “Just recently, he was announced as a 2020 Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient for his contributions to music during his nearly five-decade career. Widely lauded as one of the most influential songwriters of his generation, John’s impact will continue to inspire musicians for years to come. We send our deepest condolences to his loved ones.”

The Americana Music Association, which honored him with a tribute concert the night before the Grammys last year, named him Americana artist of the year in 2005, 2017 and 2018; BMI presented him with its second Troubadour Award; and  PEN New England honored him with the Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence Award.

APPLE MUSIC'S
YEAR-END LEADERS
Roddy Rich and The Weeknd are streaming kings. (12/4a)
VAUGHN'S FIRST MOVE: MATTERA TO THE TOWER
A company with no corner offices (12/1a)
U.K. MEET THE MANAGERS
Who's hot in Blighty? (12/1a)
RON PERRY: SUPERCHARGING THE BIG RED MACHINE
Hoodie man doin' work (12/2a)
SPOTIFY GIFT-WRAPS
THE YEAR IN MUSIC
How Swede it is. (12/2a)
RAINMAKERS 2020
Bring your umbrella.
GRAMMYS: WHERE TO FROM HERE?
Assessing the state of play in Snubland.
ZOOM CHRISTMAS
Ho, ho, no.
RUDY FARTED IN COURT
We wish we were joking.
 Email

 First Name

 Last Name

 Company

 Country
CAPTCHA code
Captcha: (type the characters above)