John Prine, the folk artist whose songwriting shaped an entire era of music, has died of coronavirus complications.
Prine had been hospitalized in Nashville last month after contracting COVID-19. With his condition said to be critical, he was soon placed in intensive care. His wife Fiona later gave an update that while Prine was “stable,” his condition was not improving given there is no cure for the virus. His family confirmed his death late on Tuesday, April 7. He was 73.
“We have no words to describe the grief our family is experiencing at this time,” reads a statement from Fiona Prine. “John was the love of my life and adored by our sons Jody, Jack and Tommy, daughter in law Fanny, and by our grandchildren. John contracted Covid-19 and in spite of the incredible skill and care of his medical team at Vanderbilt he could not overcome the damage this virus inflicted on his body. I sat with John – who was deeply sedated- in the hours before he passed and will be forever grateful for that opportunity.”
“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the outpouring of love we have received from family, friends, and fans all over the world. John will be so missed but he will continue to comfort us with his words and music and the gifts of kindness, humor and love he left for all of us to share,” the family’s statement concludes.
As a songwriter, Prine was considered to be Nashville elite despite his roots in Chicago. He had a penchant for writing raw, honest lyrics depicting all facets of American life, from drugs and war to small town life and aging. His catalog of songs earned high praise from fellow songwriting legends like Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson, while music stars like Bette Midler, Johnny Cash, Bonnie Raitt, Carly Simon and Joan Baez all covered his work.
His musical style was as versatile as his lyrics, too. Prine released 18 studio albums over the course of his nearly five-decade career that bounced in genre from folk and Americana to country bluegrass and even rockabilly. His final record, 2018’s The Tree Of Forgiveness, was the highest-charting album of his career, peaking at No. 5 on the Billboard album chart and topping the U.S. folk chart. However, Prine’s early work continues to be some of his best known, particularly the songs “Angel From Montgomery,” “Sam Stone,” “Hello In There” and “The Great Compromise.”
Tributes poured in from several artists following news of Prine’s passing. Bruce Springsteen wrote a heartfelt message on Twitter, saying “Over here on E Street, we are crushed by the loss of John Prine. John and I were ‘New Dylans’ together in the early 70s and he was never anything but the loveliest guy in the world. A true national treasure and a songwriter for the ages. We send our love and prayers to his family.”
Carole King shared Wednesday morning “The world lost a great songwriter yesterday.” Meanwhile, modern music giants also paid homage to Prine for influencing their own careers. Maren Morris tweeted “Angel from Montgomery was one of the first songs I learned to play on guitar when I was 12. This one hurts.” Jason Isbell, who featured on Prine’s final album, reacted with a series of tweets that read “Well for once I’m glad I don’t have to go up on a stage and try to sing tonight,” and “We love you John.”