(CelebrityAccess) — John Prine, the doyen of American roots and country-folk music who was widely considered to be one of the most influential songwriters of his generation, died Tuesday at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. He was 73.
His family told the New York Times that the cause of death was complications from COVID-19.
Prine was hospitalized on March 26th after testing positive for the virus and was later moved to intensive care as his situation became more serious. His wife, Fiona Whelen Prine, was also diagnosed with COVID-19, but successfully recovered.
Prine was raised in Maywood, Il., a blue-collar suburb of Chicago, as part of a musical family, and started playing guitar at 14 before attending Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music.
After a stint in the U.S. Army, he returned to Chicago, where he began performing at open mic nights at music venues such as the Fifth Peg, where film critic Roger Ebert provided his first review.
The strength of Prine’s performances made him a central figure in Chicago’s folk revival alongside figures including Steve Goodman and Tom Dundee, and he went on to release his debut album in 1971 on Atlantic after being signed by recording industry legend Jerry Wexler.
In 1981, Prine launched his own label Oh Boy Records, a fan-supported endeavor that served as a refutation of the recording industry that Prine felt served the interests of the labels rather than recording artists. The label would go on to serve as a platform for artists such as Lorrie Morrigan, Roy Acuff, Bill Anderson, Merle Haggard, Janis Ian, and Kris Kristofferson.
Prine was nominated for two Grammy Awards including Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1991 for his album The Missing Years, and again in 2005 for Fair & Square. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2019 and was the first singer/songwriter to read and perform at the Library of Congress.
Prine was named winner of the PEN/Song Lyrics Award in 2016 and was lauded by Bob Dylan, who in a 2008 interview, stated that Prine was one of his favorite songwriters.
“Prine’s stuff is pure Proustian existentialism. Midwestern mindtrips to the nth degree. And he writes beautiful songs,” said Dylan. “I remember when Kris Kristofferson first brought him on the scene. ‘Sam Stone’ featuring the wonderfully evocative line: ‘There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes, and Jesus Christ died for nothing I suppose.’ All that stuff about “Sam Stone,” the soldier junkie daddy, and “Donald and Lydia”, where people make love from ten miles away. Nobody but Prine could write like that.”
Prine was married twice, most recently to Fiona Whelan Prine, who also served as his manager.