John Prine, an American singer and songwriter whose blend of folk and country earned him a devoted legion of fans and reverence from music greats such as Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen over a five-decade career, died Tuesday at age 73 from complications of the novel coronavirus.
Prine was admitted for the disease late last month at a hospital in the southeastern city of Nashville, Tennessee. He had survived two separate bouts of cancer, the first in 1998, and the second as recently as 2013.
The Kentucky-born Prine was working as a postman by day and singing in Chicago clubs at night when he was discovered by singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson in 1970. Kristofferson was instrumental in securing Prine a record deal with Atlantic Records, releasing an album that contained such songs as "Angel from Montgomery," about a middle-aged housewife dreaming of a better life, and "Sam Stone," about a drug-addicted Vietnam war veteran, that would eventually become folk-country standards.
Although mainstream success eluded him, Prine's songs were covered by a cross-section of blues, country and folk singers including Johnny Cash and Bonnie Raitt, who scored a major hit with her version of "Angel from Montgomery" in 1974. His work earned him two Grammy Awards and scores of other honors, including membership in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Prine is the latest figure of the U.S. arts community to die from COVID-19. They include Ellis Marsalis, the father of jazz luminaries Wynton, Branford, Jason and Delfayo, and a respected musician and educator in his own right; jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli; jazz trumpeter Wallace Roney; rock singer-songwriter Adam Schlesinger; country singer Joe Diffie; and playwright Terrence McNally, whose groundbreaking plays such as "Love! Valour! Compassion!" focused on the lives of gay men.