Grammy-winning Singer John Prine, who wrote his early songs in his head while delivering mail and later emerged from Chicago’s folk revival scene in the 1970s to become one of the most influential songwriters, has died
He was 73.
According to his wife, Fiona Whelan Prine, who was also his manager, Prine was hospitalised in Nashville on March 26, suffering from symptoms of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus,
“We join the world in mourning the passing of revered country and folk singer/songwriter John Prine.
“Widely lauded as one of the most influential songwriters of his generation, John’s impact will continue to inspire musicians for years to come. We send our deepest condolences to his loved ones.” the Recording Academy said in a written statement.
A Publicist for Prine confirmed his death due to complications from COVID-19 at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre in his adopted hometown of Nashville.
Born in Chicago on Oct. 10, 1946, to William Prine and Verna Hamm, both originally of Kentucky, Prine was taught by his older brother David to play guitar at the age of 14 and attended music classes at the Old Town School of Folk Music.
After graduating from high school in suburban Maywood, Illinois, Prine worked as a mail carrier for five years, performing in Chicago clubs in the evenings at occasional “open mic” nights.
He would say later that some of his best-known early songs were written while he walked the streets of Chicago delivering mail.
“I likened the mail route to being in a library without any books. You just had time to be quiet and think and that’s where I would come up with a lot of songs.
“If the song was any good I could remember it later and write it down,” Prine told the Chicago Tribune in a 2010 interview.
He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1966, stationed in Germany during the Vietnam War, before returning home to dedicate himself to music and establishing himself as a leading member of Chicago’s folk revival scene.
That album, widely praised by critics, contained several songs that would become staples of Prine’s catalogue.
They included “Angel from Montgomery,” about a woman wishing for deliverance from her unfulfilling life; “Paradise,” about a Kentucky town devastated by strip mining; and “Sam Stone,” chronicling the downward spiral of a drug-addicted Vietnam War veteran and containing the oft-quoted refrain:
“There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes, Jesus Christ died for nothing I suppose.”
His early song writing style earned comparisons with no less than folk Great Bob Dylan, who later called Prine one of his favourites
He won his first Grammy Award in 1991; Best Contemporary Folk Album for “The Missing Years.”
He would win a second Grammy in the same category in 2005 for “Fair and Square’’.
In December 2019, the Recording Academy honoured him with a lifetime achievement award.
Prine survived squamous cell cancer in 1998, undergoing surgery to his neck and tongue that left his voice with an even deeper, gravelly tone.