John Prine Dies: Rockers React
The just-reported death of legendary songwriter John Prine has brought out tributes from across the music industry.
Singer-songwriter Jason Isbell, who had a very close friendship with Prine, tweeted: "We love you John." Isbell's wife Amanda Shires, who is also a singer-songwriter, added: "Rest easy, Uncle John." The same graphic said she was "taking a break from everything for a while."
Prine passed away today, less than two weeks after being admitted to a hospital when he experienced symptoms related to the novel coronavirus COVID-19. Despite an update a few days later that he had been upgraded from critical to stable condition, his wife Fiona said on Thursday that he contracted pneumonia in both lungs and had "some peripheral issues."
A native of the Chicago suburb of Maywood, Ill., Prine had been working as a mailman while playing the big city's folk clubs. His career received a boost in October 1970 from Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert, who happened upon Prine gig at the Fifth Peg and raved about him in the paper. Ebert singled out four songs – "Angel From Montgomery" "Sam Stone," "Hello in There" and "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore" – that would be highlights the 1971 self-titled debut, which earned Prine a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist a year later.
While never a household name – of his early records, only 1975's Common Sense broke into the upper half of the Billboard 200 Albums chart – his songs were celebrated throughout the folk-rock and country communities for their seamless blend of humor and bottomless empathy. His material was covered by such names as Bonnie Raitt, John Fogerty, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson (who helped Prine get signed to his first recording contract), R.E.M., Joan Baez, the Everly Brothers and Drive-By Truckers.
"Prine's stuff is pure Proust-ian existentialism," said Bob Dylan. "Midwestern mindtrips to the nth degree. And he writes beautiful songs."
Read below to see what admirers, musicians and comedians like Stephen Colbert and Marc Maron, had to say about John Prine.
In Memoriam: 2020 Deaths