By DONNA BALANCIA
John Prine has died after fighting complications of the COVID-19 coronavirus. He was 73.
Prine, who has penned some of the most memorable and important songs of the 20th Century, entered the hospital on March 26 with pneumonia in his lungs. His wife Fiona had been diagnosed with coronavirus previously and recovered.
Prine was intubated but his situation had been critical but stable, his wife posted on social media.
“This is hard news for us to share,” Fiona wrote. “But so many of you have loved and supported John over the years, we wanted to let you know, and give you the chance to send out more of that love and support now. And know that we love you, and John loves you.”
Considered a national treasure, Prine started as a mailman who played music as a hobby back in Maywood, Illinois. In the 1960s after serving in Vietnam, Prine started doing open mic performances in Chicago and he became an important player among the folk music singer-songwriters of the day.
Always pithy and warm, Prine’s songs conveyed real human experiences with wit and remarkable grace. His lyrics and melodies captured the heart of emotions in good times and bad and generally gave an uplifting feeling or informed the listeners.
Kris Kristofferson was a fan of Prine and took notice of him following the release of the Prine self-titled album in 1971, from which came the songs “Illegal Smile” and “Sam Stone,” which conjured up hidden dreams and memorable characters.
“Angel From Montgomery” was covered by several artists but was particularly significant for Bonnie Raitt who made the song part of her regular repertoire.
In 1998, he underwent surgery to remove part of his neck because of squamous cell cancer. His recuperation included a year of speech therapy.
“We join the world in mourning the passing of revered country and folk singer/songwriter John Prine,” wrote Harvey Mason Jr., Interim President and CEO of The Recording Academy. “John earned 11 GRAMMY nominations and received two GRAMMY Awards for Best Contemporary Folk Album, one for The Missing Years at the 34th GRAMMYs and another for Fair and Square at the 48th GRAMMYs.
“His self-titled debut album was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame in 2015, and 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,” Mason said. “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.”
One of the most notable covers of “Hello In There” was by Bette Midler.
The Other Side Of Town:
One of the more beautiful collaborations was In Spite of Ourselves, which Prine wrote for the Billy Bob Thornton movie Daddy and Them.