John Prine remembered by Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, Miranda Lambert and more

Brenda Watkins
April 8, 2020

John Prine's music cut across genre, age, race, and gender lines to affect everyone who was fortunate enough to come in contact with his plain-spoken wisdom and razor-sharp wit.

John Prine, the ingenious singer-songwriter who explored the heartbreaks, indignities and absurdities of everyday life in "Angel from Montgomery", "Sam Stone", "Hello in There" and scores of other indelible tunes, died Tuesday at the age of 73. Fiona revealed in early April that he had developed pneumonia in both lungs.

Prine released a string of albums in the 1970s, winning larger audiences and critical acclaim as his music stretched from folk to country to Americana, often infused with a sense of humor.

The bluegrass-loving musician with a penchant for allegory enjoyed riffing on country music tropes with stereotypical spoofs, adding whimsical touches to heavier lyricism. "We'll love you forever John Prine".

In 1981, exhausted of the recording establishment he considered exploitative of artists, Prine founded his own record label Oh Boy Records in Nashville.

Bonnie Raitt - a close friend of Prine - honored him at the 2019 Grammys with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Prine's songs are handsome, sturdy, a little worn and weathered, and deceptively simple.

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In his 1997 autobiography Cash, Johnny Cash said: "I don't listen to music much at the farm, unless I'm going into songwriting mode and looking for inspiration".

Prine fought cancer twice, most recently battling lung cancer in 2013.

After a year of speech therapy he was able to perform again, albeit with a new gravelly timbre. His surgery required removing a small tumor as well as a part of his neck.

Prine was admitted to hospital last month and his wife and manager, Fiona, said on March 17 that she had tested positive for coronavirus.

Tributes poured out for the deeply influential artist, with Justin Vernon of experimental folk band Bon Iver calling Prine "my number 1". John and I were "New Dylans" together in the early 70s and he was never anything but the lovliest guy in the world. "So is Neil Young, Bob Dylan, so is John Prine". He returned in 2018 with his first album in 13 years, The Tree of Forgiveness.

"I'm gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl", Prine sang.

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