John Prine, an American folk legend widely considered one of his generation’s most influential songwriters, died following complications of coronavirus Tuesday, his publicist told AFP on behalf of his family. He was 73 years old.
On April 3 Prine’s wife Fiona had posted on social media the beloved country and folk star was on his eighth day in the ICU on a ventilator, and had pneumonia in both lungs.
Once dubbed the “Mark Twain of American songwriting,” over his five decades in the music business Prine carved an image as an off-the-cuff wordsmith who forged melancholy tales with a dose of surrealist wit.
Bob Dylan has named Prine among his favorite songwriters, citing the literary yarn “Lake Marie” as a favorite from his fellow folk bard’s vast catalogue.
“Prine’s stuff is pure Proustian existentialism,” Dylan said in 2009.
“Midwestern mind-trips to the nth degree.”
Born October 10, 1946 in Maywood, Illinois, Prine took up music as a hobby before emerging on the Chicago folk revivalist scene in the late 1960s, when he was discovered by country star Kris Kristofferson.
His 1971 self-titled debut album was a critical hit, a first collection of his unique social commentary and protest songs that would make the troubadour a staple of Americana for decades to come.
His anti-Vietnam War hit “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore” found a second coming in the early 2000s as the United States embarked on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, earning Prine both standing ovations and angry hate mail.
“When someone turns the country backwards,” he told Florida’s St. Petersburg Times in 2005, “they should at least expect to be called out on it.”
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