In Memoriam: John Prine (1946-2020)

Legendary singer-songwriter John Prine has passed away from complications related to the Coronavirus.  He was 73.

Rolling Stone reports:

Though he was an underground singer-songwriter for most of his career, Prine had a remarkable final act. In 2018, he released The Tree of Forgiveness, his first album of original material in 13 years. The album went to Number Five on the Billboard 200, the highest debut of his career, and he played some of his biggest shows ever, including a sold-out tour kickoff at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. The album was released on Oh Boy Records, the independent label Prine started with his longtime manager, business partner, and friend Al Bunetta. In recent years, Prine, his wife, and son Jody ran the label out of a small Nashville home office.

Prine’s string of acclaimed solo albums began with his self-titled 1971 debut on Atlantic Records, featuring a tracklist that reads like a greatest-hits compilation: “Illegal Smile,” “Spanish Pipedream,” “Hello in There,” “Sam Stone,” “Paradise,” “Donald and Lydia,” “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore,” and “Angel From Montgomery” among them. Throughout his career, Prine explored a wide variety of musical styles, from hard country to rockabilly to bluegrass; he liked to say that he tried to live in a space somewhere between his heroes Johnny Cash and Dylan.

His last studio album, The Tree of Forgiveness, was released in April 2018, just six months after he was named the Americana Music Association’s Artist of the Year. Rolling Stone said the album had “all the qualities that have defined him as one of America’s greatest songwriters.”

Prine attended the Grammys in January, where he received a Lifetime Achievement Award. The singer could be seen on television with his family, grinning and wearing sunglasses, as Bonnie Raitt sang “Angel From Montgomery.” Last year, Prine was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Onstage, he summed up why he chose a life as a songwriter: “I gotta say, there’s no better feeling than having a killer song in your pocket, and you’re the only one in the world who’s heard it.”
Please share your favorite John Prine songs and performances in the comments.  We wish his family comfort and peace during this difficult time.

3 Comments

  1. My favorite John Prine song is “Unwed Fathers”, but the first Prine song that I remember ever hearing was “Paradise”, before I really knew who John Prine was and I love that song too. Another favorite is “In Spite of Ourselves” with Iris Dement! He was a brilliant songwriter and it’s so sad that Covid 19 took him after all that he survived before it, including strokes and cancer twice.

  2. I wasn’t a big John Prine fan at first, mostly because of his subpar voice, but his vocals more interesting as he got older. I enjoyed many of his songs, and I really liked some of his later album projects (IN SPITE OF OURSELVES, FOR BETTER OR WORSE, and his marvelous project with Mac Wiseman STANDARD SONGS FOR AVERAGE PEOPLE). I also think TREE OF FORGIVENESS is a true classic

    R.I.P.

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