In Memoriam: John Prine (1946-2020)

Raffaela Kenny-Cincotta on April 7, 2020
In Memoriam: John Prine (1946-2020)

Prine on the cover of 1973’s ‘Sweet Revenge’

After being hospitalized on March 26 with symptoms of COVID-19, legendary musician and songwriter John Prine has died. He was 73.

Born in 1946 and raised in the Chicago suburbs, Prine served in the Army in his 20s before returning to the U.S. to pick up his music career. By 1970, he was discovered by Kris Kristofferson in a Chicago club and quickly released his eponymous debut album in 1971. It included a number of Prine’s most memorable compositions, most of all “Angel From Montgomery.”

Over his 40+ year career, Prine was hailed by critics and adored by his peers.

Bob Dylan previously described his work as “Proustian existentialism” exploring “Midwestern mindtrips to the nth degree… Nobody but Prine could write like that.”

He won his first Grammy in 1992 for his album The Missing Years and won “Best Contemporary Folk Album” once again in 2006 for Fair & Square.

Later in life, Prine continued to perform and write music. He played a standout headlining set at Newport Folk in 2017, welcoming Roger Waters, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, Margo Price and Nathaniel Rateliff to collaborate through his 16-song set. His most recent album The Tree of Forgiveness was released in April 2018.

Bonnie Raitt – a close friend of Prine – honored him at the 2019 Grammys with a Lifetime Achievement Award. She sang a segment of “Angel From Montgomery” before saying, “My friend and hero John Prine, who’s sitting over there, wrote ‘Angel From Montgomery’ and so many other songs that changed my life… I love you, John.”

Prine has battled health issues for some time, having postponed a number of shows this past summer due to an elevated risk of a stroke. He also battled squamous cell cancer in the late-’90s and lung cancer in 2013.

He is survived by his wife and two sons.

Watch Prine perform one of his signature songs, “Sam Stone,” below: