COVID-19 has taken John Prine, the legendary raspy-voiced singer, who had a big influence on Bob Dylan, Kris Kristoferson and others. He was 73.
Prine had already survived cancer twice: 1998 to treat a tumour in his neck and throat (damaging his vocal cords in the process, and causing his head to slump to one side) and 2013 to remove part of a lung. Earlier this year, he had a to cancel a show in Australia because of a hip injury.
Prine was discovered by Kris Kristofferson when he wandered into The Fifth Peg, a tiny club in Chicago where Prine was performing during an open mic night. He was mesmerized by the kind of material Prine was writing: intense, very emotional, highly poetic.
Prine had a lot of time to thing of lyrics. After being discharged from the Army, he got a job as a mailman. He composed this lyrics in his head while he trudged through his route every day.
A few weeks later, Kristofferson brought him onstage in New York where he was performing with Carly Simon. He got a record deal the next day.
Prine was one of the many people touted as The New Dylan in the 70s. Even Dylan himself grew to be a fan as did Bruce Springsteen, who was very moved by Prine’s work.
A 1971 self-titled debut album began his reputation as a guy who wrote heavy, serious songs. Check out this track about a drug-addicted war vet.
Prine’s songs were covered by others such as Bonnie Raitt.
Others who recorded Prine covers include Johnny Cash, Zac Brown Band, Miranda Lambert, George Strait, and Bette Midler.
Despite his critical acclaim, Prine never had a hit record on his own and lived mostly as an underground favourite. He made a decent living through playing live shows and from royalties derived by covers of his material by other people.
Prine was hospitalized last month when he suddenly came down with the coronavirus. He was in intensive care for two weeks.
Read more at Rolling Stone.