The New York Times reported Tuesday that country folk star John Prine had died of complications from COVID-19.
Prine was 73.
An “ingenious” songwriter
NBC News reported that the famed singer-songwriter was being treated for the coronavirus disease at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. Prine’s wife, Fiona, previously tested positive for the virus but has since recovered, NBC reported.
According to the Times, Prine’s “ingenious” songwriting skills “made him a favorite” of musical luminaries like Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson. His lyrics were characterized by the outlet as “poignant, angry, and comic.”
Prine’s 1970s discovery is credited to Kristofferson, who the paper said “heard [Prine] play one night at a small Chicago club called the Fifth Peg” after being brought to the venue by fellow musician Steve Goodman. Prine’s material reportedly had a major impact on Kristofferson; he later said the performance “was unlike anything I’d heard before,” the Times reported.
“No way somebody this young can be writing so heavy,” Kristofferson added when introducing Prine at a New York City club, according to the Times. “John Prine is so good,” he once joked, “we may have to break his thumbs.”
“A library with no books”
Both of Prine’s parents had grown up in a Kentucky coal-mining town before moving to the Chicago suburb where he was born — and their Appalachian roots influenced his music. A song he wrote called “Paradise” lamented the damage that mining had done to the landscape, the Times noted.
Prine got a job with the post office after graduating from high school, according to the Times, and he remained there for two years prior to being drafted into the Army. Following his service, Prine resumed his postal job, an occupation that he enjoyed, as it gave him time alone to spend coming up with song lyrics.
“I always likened the mail route to a library with no books,” the singer–songwriter remarked on his website, according to the Times. “I passed the time each day making up these little ditties.”
“One and only”
According to NBC News, “Prine received lifetime achievement recognition at the Grammy Awards this year.” Upon his death, country stars like Miranda Lambert and Toby Keith penned heartful tributes.
The great John Prine has passed away from the virus. He showed me how to “let it rip” when it comes to songwriting. There’s a huge hole in the music world tonight. John did it best. RIP.
Prine “is survived by his wife; two sons, Jack and Tommy; a stepson, Jody; and three grandchildren,” NBC News reported.