John Prine, the singer-songwriter whose career spanned five decades, died Tuesday at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.
His publicist told CNN,
“Yes, we can confirm on behalf of the Prine family — John died today at Vanderbilt due to complications of Covid-19.”
Prine was hospitalized and intubated last month after a “sudden onset” of coronavirus symptoms, according to a family statement posted on his Twitter account.
“This is hard news for us to share. 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 on more of that love and support now. And know that we love you, and John loves you.”
Prine never had a hit single or a blockbuster album, but he built a devoted following and won several Grammys including a lifetime achievement award.
Bob Dylan said in a 2009 interview,
“Prine’s stuff is pure Proustian existentialism … and he writes beautiful songs.”
Bruce Springsteen said on Twitter following Prine’s death.
“John and I were ‘New Dylans’ together in the early 70s and he was never anything but the loveliest guy in the world.
A true national treasure and a songwriter for the ages. We send our love and prayers to his family.”
According to CNN,
Prine grew up in a blue-collar suburb of Chicago and was famously working as a postal carrier when his musical career took off in 1970. He was singing on open-mic nights at a Chicago bar when Roger Ebert, then a young reporter for the Sun-Times, heard him play and wrote a favorable review, dubbing him the “Singing Mailman.” People began lining up to hear him play, and one famous early fan, singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson, helped him get a record deal.
Prine’s debut album, in 1971, was a critical success with several of his signature songs, like Hello in There, a tribute to growing older,
“Ya know that old trees just grow stronger
And old rivers grow wilder every day
Old people just grow lonesome
Waiting for someone to say,
‘Hello in there, hello.'”
Over the years Prine’s songs have been covered by a wide range of artists, from Bonnie Raitt and Bette Midler to John Fogerty. In January, the Grammys honored Prine with a lifetime achievement award, with Raitt singing his Angel From Montgomery.
Singer Sheryl Crow wrote on Twitter,
“He is singing with the angels. You will be missed but your songs will live on.”
John Prine was 73.
Over here on E Street, we are crushed by the loss of John Prine. John and I were “New Dylans” together in the early 70s and he was never anything but the lovliest guy in the world. A true national treasure and a songwriter for the ages. We send our love and prayers to his family.— Bruce Springsteen (@springsteen) April 8, 2020
“I am an old woman named after my mother
My old man is another child that’s grown old
If dreams were lightning, thunder were desire
This old house would have burnt down a long time ago
Make me an angel that flies from Montgomery
Make me a poster of an old rodeo
Just give me one thing that I can hold on to
To believe in this living is just a hard way to go“
–John Prine, Angel from Montgomery
(Photo, YouTube; via CNN)