John Prine Dies of Coronavirus at Age 73
Influential singer-songwriter John Prine died on Tuesday (April 7) at Nashville's Vanderbilt University Medical Center, after contracting the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Rolling Stone and Billboard confirm. He was 73 years old.
On March 29, a message from the Prine family on the folk icon's social media pages explained that Prine had been hospitalized since March 26 after he began showing symptoms of COVID-19. "He was intubated Saturday evening (March 28) and continues to receive care, but his situation is critical," the statement shared.
"This is hard news for us to share," the Prines' message continued. "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."
One day later, on March 30, Prine's wife and manager, Fiona, explained that her husband was stable, but that he was far from out of the woods. On April 2, she shared that he remained in the ICU and had contracted pneumonia in both of his lungs. "He is very ill,"she said at the time, "and yet I remain hopeful that he can continue to fight this devastating virus and come home where we can care for him."
Fiona Prine was previously diagnosed with the coronavirus and had self-quarantined herself in their home. She posted a video on her social media pages explaining her symptoms and urged others to stay at home to keep the disease from spreading.
"I sat with John -- who was deeply sedated -- in the hours before he passed," Fiona Prine shared in a statement on Wednesday (April 8), "and will be forever grateful for that opportunity." The Prines celebrated their 24th wedding anniversary on Monday (April 6).
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Born on Oct. 10, 1946, Prine grew up in the small town of Maywood, Ill., and began playing the guitar at the age of 14. After a short stint in the U.S. military, he moved to Chicago and became a mailman, performing at open mic nights and venues around the city in his free time.
Prine became one of the most notable faces of Chicago's folk revival during the 1970s. It was in that city that Kris Kristofferson stumbled upon Prine performing at a local venue. The two quickly formed a friendship that led Kristofferson to invite Prine onstage with him during a show in New York City, beginning a rapid rise in Prine's career.
Prine released his self-titled debut record in 1971. The album features some of his most iconic and beloved songs, including "Sam Stone," "Illegal Smile," "Paradise" and "Angel From Montgomery," but it was just the beginning of an incredible career that spanned over 50 years and 18 studio albums.
Known for his recognizable mixture of honest lyrics, undeniable emotion and a keen sense of humor, Prine wrote songs that connected with listeners across many genres. From the reflective imagery of "Christmas in Prison" to protest songs such as "The Great Compromise," no one could tell a story quite like Prine.
As a songwriter, Prine penned some of country music's most beloved songs: George Strait's "I Just Want to Dance with You," Don Williams' "Love Is on a Roll" and David Allan Coe's "You Never Even Called Me By My Name" are just a few of the hits that Prine helped create.
In 1984, Prine founded Oh Boy! Records, which still operates to this day and features a roster that includes rising country talent Kelsey Waldon.
Even as the years passed and health issues appeared, Prine never slowed down for long. He was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer on his neck in 1998 and underwent surgery, which caused some of the nerves in his tongue to be severed; it added a low, gravelly tone to his voice, but he continued to create. Five years later, doctors found cancer in Prine's left lung; after surgery and rehabilitation, he went back on the road just a few months later.
Prine's music has earned him four Grammy Awards and six Americana Music Awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting. He has also been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Prine is a 2020 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner and was to be honored at a ceremony this spring.
Prine's most recent record, 2018's The Tree of Forgiveness, was recorded at Nashville's historic RCA Studio A and earned widespread critical acclaim. Produced by Dave Cobb, the album featured appearances by Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires, Brandi Carlile and Dan Auerbach.
Prine is survived by his wife, Fiona Whelan Prine, and three children: Tommy, Jack and stepson Jody Whelan.
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