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John Prine passes away at 73

Tuesday, April 7, 2020 – John Prine, who rose from postman to one of America's finest songwriters, passed away today in Nashville at 73 from coronavirus.

Prine, known for such songs as "Angel from Montgomery" and "Paradise," had been hospitalized since March 26. He tended to write about common people in a most literary way, attracting much acclaim from the likes of Dylan and Johnny Cash. Prine wrote about social and political topics, such as an addicted Viet Nam War veteran, who suffered from PTSD ("Sam Stone").

Prine wore many hats - songwriter, performer, recording artist and record label owner. He also displayed a sense of humor both in song and in concert.

Prine was born in the Chicago suburb of Maywood on Oct. 10, 1946. He began playing guitar at the age of 14 and attended classes at Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music. He was a mailman for five years, writing songs during his time delivering mail, and served in the Army during the Vietnam War era.

He moved back to Chicago and began to sing at open mic evenings at the Fifth Peg on Armitage Avenue in Chicago despite being initially reluctant to do so. In fact, Roger Ebert, best known as a movie critic, was there at his first gig and heaped praises upon Prine. At the urging of fellow Chicago singer Steve Goodman ("City of New Orleans"), Kris Kristofferson came to check out Prine and was impressed. He eventually became a key figure in the Chicago folk scene, which included Steve Goodman and Bonnie Koloc.

Prine made his debut in 1971 with a self-titled disc on Atlantic. The recording included such songs as "Illegal Smile," "Sam Stone," and songs that would later become standards, "Angel from Montgomery" and "Paradise." Bonnie Raitt would later have a hit with "Angel From Montgomery."

He continued releasing albums with 1978's "Bruised Orange," spurring on his career. He followed that up the next year with "Pink Cadillac," which included two songs produced by Sam Phillps.

Prine had it with the major labels and formed Oh Boy Records in 1981. The label, based in Nashville, remained a vehicle for his recordings and occasionally other artists. Prine crowd-funded his albums before that became a popular tool.

Prine won a Grammy in 1991 for "The Missing Years," a collaboration with Howie Epstein of The Heartbreakers. Prine also took home a Grammy in 2005 with "Fair & Square" for Best Contemporary Folk Album.

While not a huge commercial seller, Prine gained much acclaim. He won the Americana Music Association's Artist of the Year honor in 2017, making that the second time he received that honor. He was a fan favorite at the Newport Folk Festival in recent years as well.

Among the artists covering Prine songs were George Strait, "I Just Want to Dance With You," Miranda Lambert, "That's the Way That the World Goes Round," David Allan Coe, "You Never Even Called Me by My Name" and Don Williams, "Love Is on a Roll."

Bob Dylan told The Huffington Post that Prine was one of his favorite writers. "Prine's stuff is pure Proustian existentialism. Midwestern mindtrips to the nth degree. And he writes beautiful songs. I remember when Kris Kristofferson first brought him on the scene. 'Sam Stone' featuring the wonderfully evocative line: 'There's a hole in daddy's arm where all the money goes, and Jesus Christ died for nothing I suppose.'[23] All that stuff about "Sam Stone," the soldier junkie daddy, and "Donald and Lydia", where people make love from ten miles away. Nobody but Prine could write like that."

In 2016, Prine released "For Better, or Worse," an album of duets with female country singers including Kacey Musgraves, Miranda Lambert, Holly Williams, Kathy Mattea and LeeAnn Womack.

Prine announced his first new album of original material in 13 years, "The Tree of Forgiveness," in 2018. Produced by Dave Cobb, the album featured Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires, Dan Auerbach and Brandi Carlile. The album became Prine's highest-charting album on the Billboard 200.

Prine attended the Grammys in January, where he received a Lifetime Achievement Award.

He suffered from several bouts with cancer.

In 1998, Prine was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer on the right side of his neck. The surgery removed a piece of his neck and severed a few nerves in his tongue. Prine required a year of recuperation and speech therapy before performing again. His voice also changed, resulting in a gravelly tone.

In 2013, Prine had lung cancer, removing the lung. He was touring six weeks later.

Prine's wife and manager Fiona Whelan Prine said on March 19 that she had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and was quarantined in her home apart from her husband. He was hospitalizd on March 26.

More news for John Prine

CD reviews for John Prine

The Tree of Forgiveness CD review - The Tree of Forgiveness
Mortality is very much on the mind of John Prine on this, his first album of all-new songs in 13 years. Understandably. After all, this is a man who has survived lung cancer and squamous cell cancer, the latter of which took a toll on his vocal cords. He's also had two knee replacements and a hip replacement. "All the TSA guys know me," jokes the legendary 71-year-old singer-songwriter. There are odes to the Almighty ("Boundless Love") and reflections on human limitations »»»
For Better, Or Worse CD review - For Better, Or Worse
With "For Better or Worse," John Prine follows up his "In Spite of Ourselves" album with more male/female duets. And this one is a true A-list effort, as it finds Prine trading lines with the likes of Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves and Alison Krauss. Once again, though, Iris DeMent steals the show with the angry and sarcastic "Who's Gonna Take the Garbage Out," the same way she did with the prior album's title cut. She's a worthy sparring partner, »»»
In Person & On Stage CD review - In Person & On Stage
John Prine holds a well-deserved spot in the songwriters' pantheon. So, it's always a bit disappointing when a new Prine release isn't stocked with new Prine songs. After producing 7 albums between 1971-1980, he has only made a handful of albums of originals since then, although he has done a couple covers projects, the "Souvenirs" re-recordings album, a Christmas disc and now his third live album. That said, there are bountiful joys in listening to Prine performing »»»
Editorial: Walking the talk – When names like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Waylon and the Hag are invoked, you're talking hard core country. These are the touchstones of country , the guys who made country music what it was and still is (or maybe can be). When these folks would sing about being down-and-out and the rough-and-tumble, they knew of what they were singing about. Fast forward a few years to the country singers of today. »»»
Concert Review: The Lil Smokies provide the perfect antidote – On a night when the world to be falling further apart thanks to coronavirus (this would be the night the NBA postponed the season), there stood The Lil Smokies to at least in some small measure save the day. The quintet is part of a generation of musicians with bluegrass as the basis, but not totally the sum of the music either.... »»»
Concert Review: White makes the case for himself, no matter how dark the music – John Paul White opined with a glint in his eyes that his songs were not of the uplifting variety. In fact, they were downright dark. How else to explain "The Long Way" with the line "long way home back to you." Or "James," a song inspired by his grandfather who suffered from dementia. But lest you think that the Alabama... »»»
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