John Prine, who established himself as one in every of America’s deftest and most affecting singer-songwriters over the course of a virtually 50-year profession, died Tuesday of issues of coronavirus. He was 73.
His publicist confirmed his dying on behalf of his household. Prine had been within the hospital since March, and it was introduced that he had examined optimistic for COVID-19 on March 17.
Prine was by no means an enormous vendor: The highest-charting document of his early profession, 1975’s “Widespread Sense,” peaked at No. 66, and he didn’t attain the American high 10 till 2018. However he was universally acknowledged by his friends as a gifted and distinctive songsmith who put his numbers throughout in a furry drawl that mated wealthy homespun humor, sharp narrative element and deep heat and poignancy.
He burst out of the Chicago folks music scene, the place he performed membership reveals whereas he labored by day as a mail service, within the early ‘70s. He acquired his first main break when Chicago Solar-Occasions movie critic Roger Ebert walked out of a film screening and stumbled upon Prine’s set on the native membership the Fifth Peg.
“Someone informed him to go within the backroom and take heed to this child,” Prine recalled on NPR in 2018. “I used to be the child. And he wrote a full web page – ‘Singing Mailman Delivers the Message,’ I feel that was the headline…and I by no means had an empty seat after that.”
His best stroke of excellent fortune got here after Prine’s shut pal and Chicago folks music modern Steve Goodman introduced Kris Kristofferson, whose Quiet Knight reveals Goodman was opening, to an impromptu late-night efficiency at one other native membership. Impressed, Kristofferson later known as Prine on stage for 3 songs at a date at New York’s Bitter Finish. Atlantic Information’ Jerry Wexler supplied Prine a contract the subsequent day.
“It actually was a Cinderella story, actually,” Prine informed Billboard in 2017.
The musician moved to the pinnacle of his class in 1971 along with his self-titled Atlantic debut album. The gathering, which melded strains of people and nation with a couple of modern rock brush strokes, featured a brace of immediately traditional authentic songs that ranged from the droll pot smoker’s anthem “Unlawful Smile” to the highly effective “Sam Stone,” a robust portrait of a drug-addicted Vietnam vet.
These songs, and such oft-covered early numbers as “Angel From Montgomery” and the autobiographical “Paradise,” about his household’s days within the Kentucky coal nation, tagged Prine because the standout in a then-growing area of singer-songwriters who had been lumped collectively because the potential “new Bob Dylans.”
After eight well-received main label albums for Atlantic and Asylum, together with units produced by his pal Goodman, Steve Cropper of Booker T. & the MGs and (on a few tracks for 1979’s “Pink Cadillac”) Sam Phillips of Solar Information, Prine stepped away from recording for 4 years to rethink his profession.
In 1984, he took full management of his music and based his personal unbiased label, Oh Boy Information, in partnership along with his longtime supervisor Al Bunetta; he would launch his work on the imprint for the rest of his profession. (Bunetta died in 2015 after greater than 40 years along with his consumer.)
His work of the ‘90s included “The Lacking Years” (1991), winner of one of the best modern folks album Grammy, and “Misplaced Canines and Combined Blessings” (1995), two punchy albums produced by Tom Petty’s bassist Howie Epstein and that includes backing by members of Petty’s group the Heartbreakers.
In later years, a collection of well being crises slowed Prine’s inventive output. In 1996 he underwent surgical procedure to take away a cancerous tumor from his neck. He additionally endured lung most cancers surgical procedure in 2013, and was pressured to cancel tour dates when assessments indicated he wanted an operation to forestall a possible stroke.
Regardless of these challenges, Prine continued to pen rewarding songs (usually in collaboration with such writers as Gary Nicholson, Pat Mclaughlin and Keith Sykes). He returned to recording in 1999 with “In Spite of Ourselves,” the primary of two duets collections that featured his favourite singing associate Iris DeMent and different high feminine performers, protecting the traditional nation repertoire. He collected a second folks album Grammy for 2005’s “Honest & Sq..”
He reached his late-career peaks with 2016’s divorce-themed duets sequel “For Higher, or Worse” (No. 30 on the U.S. album chart) and 2018’s solo set “The Tree of Forgiveness” (No. 5). The latter album, his first set of latest authentic songs in 13 years, discovered Prine produced by Dave Cobb and supported by such younger Americana stars as Brandi Carlisle, Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires.
Prine was inducted into the Songwriters Corridor of Fame in 2019.
He was born in Maywood, Unwell., a western suburb of Chicago, on Oct. 10, 1946. He was taught to play guitar by his older brother Dave, who would assist him on his early information. Prine numbered Doc Watson, Bob Dylan and Johnny Money amongst his early influences. His skilled music profession was forestalled when he was drafted into the Military in 1966; he was stationed in West Germany in the course of the escalation of the Vietnam Battle.
Returning to the Chicago space, Prine returned to a postal route in Maywood, and fell in with an energetic native scene that centered across the Outdated City Faculty of Folks Music, a hub the place such performers as Goodman, Bonnie Koloc and Fred Holstein developed their reputations. He was a much-admired performer by the point his breaks got here through the eye from Ebert and Kristofferson.
Following ‘71’s “John Prine,” extensively seen as one of many strongest collections of authentic folks materials since “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” his assorted output included the spare sophomore set “Diamonds within the Tough” (1972), which took its title from a Carter Household hymn; the rocking Cropper-produced “Widespread Sense” (1975); the Goodman-helmed “Bruised Orange” (1978); and “Pink Cadillac,” a rockabilly-inflected set lower at Memphis’ Sam Phillips Recording with Phillips’ sons Jerry and Knox.
Prine bailed out on the majors for good after 1980’s “Storm Home windows” ended his three-album tenure at Asylum. His first two albums for Nashville-based Oh Boy had been relaxed affairs, however the musician hit his inventive stride once more in his collaborations with Epstein and his Petty bandmates. His Grammy win for “The Lacking Years” basically started his late-career veneration, which he considerably usually checked out self-effacingly.
He informed David Fricke within the liner notes of the 1993 profession retrospective “Nice Days,” “The most effective factor about [the Grammy], although, got here afterwards, It was like all people who’s supported me down the years, got here to the reveals and all, all of them flet like that they had received a Grammy too. I’d inform that they had been actually proud too. Type of like ‘We did it.’ It was a fantastic factor to observe.”
Despite a large number of well being setbacks later in life, Prine all the time maintained the humorousness that characterised a lot of his finest work, even in a quantity about his personal mortality. In 2018’s “Once I Get to Heaven,” a comic book track that concluded “The Tree of Forgiveness,” he promised that within the afterlife, “the outdated man goes to city.”
Prine is survived by his third spouse Fiona Whelan and their sons Tommy and Jack.