Iconic singer-songwriter John Prine died today at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. His family confirmed that he died of COVID-19 complications. He was 73.
Prine’s songwriting has been honored by the Americana Music Awards, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and more institutions. He won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1992 and 2006 for The Missing Years and Fair & Squarerespectively. He returned in 2018 with his first album in 13 years, The Tree of Forgiveness.
Born in Illinois in 1946, Prine learned guitar in his early teenage years. He served in the army and worked as a mailman before he began performing in Chicago in the late ’60s. He contributed to the city’s growing folk scene. Prine released his self-titled debut album in 1971; it contained the popular folk songs “Angel from Montgomery” and “Paradise.” His output remained steady throughout the decade, including his sophomore effort, 1972’s Diamonds in the Rough1973’s Sweet Revengeand 1979’s Pink Cadillac. His 1992 album, The Missing Yearsearned him his first Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album.
Prine fought squamous cell cancer in 1998. His surgery required removing a small tumor as well as a part of his neck. Although he recovered, he found his voice altered to a lower, gravelly register. He released the 2005 album Fair & Square about the experience, and earned his second Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album. In 2015, he was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Prine was a great influence on countless songwriters. In 2010, My Morning Jacket, Drive-By Truckers, and more contributed to a tribute album, Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine. In 2017, Bon Iver featured a special John Prine set at his Wisconsin-based Eaux Claires Festival. That same year, Prine performed at the Newport Folk Festival, and invited numerous artists, including Justin Vernon, Roger Waters, Margo Price, and others to participate. In 2019, Prine had to postpone a string of summer tour dates in preparation for heart stent surgery. The following year, however, he contributed to Swamp Dogg’s single “Memories” alongside Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon.
After Prine’s wife and manager Fiona tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) in March 2020, Prine was hospitalized “after a sudden onset of COVID-19 symptoms.” Fiona revealed in early April that he had developed pneumonia in both lungs.
“This is hard news for us to share,” Prine’s family added in the statement. “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 that John loves you.”