Singer-Songwriter John Prine Dies At 73

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Country folk singer-songwriter John Prine died Tuesday in Nashville of complications of COVID-19. He was 73.

"There’s a huge hole in the music world tonight," Toby Keith tweeted. "John did it best." Musician Nils Lofgren echoed the sentiment: "There’s a hole in our hearts that we will never fill."

Prine was admitted to Vanderbilt University Medical Center on March 26 with symptoms and intubated two days later.

His wife Fiona shared the news on March 17 that she tested positive for COVID-19 upon returning from Europe with her husband. “There’s a chance he may not have the virus,” she said at the time. “We are quarantined and isolated from each other and members of the family.” Days later, Fiona said John had pneumonia in both lungs and remained on a ventilator.

Prine, who was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s Grammys, was known for such songs as “Angel From Montgomery,” “Sam Stone,” “Hello in There” and “Paradise.” Inducted to the Songwriters Hall of Fame, he penned tracks that were recorded by artists like Bonnie Raitt, Johnny Cash, Carly Simon, Bette Midler and George Strait.

Prine was born in a Chicago suburb and, after high school, became a postal worker before being drafted into the Army ahead of the Vietnam War.

In his mid-20s, he found success on the folk music scene. Ottawa-born singer-songwriter Paul Anka became his manager and Prine released his self-titled debut album in 1971. The following year he was nominated as Best New Artist at the Grammys. He would not win a Grammy, though, until The Missing Years was named Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1991. Fair & Square won the same category in 2005.

In all, Prine released 18 studio albums during his career.

When I get to heaven, I'm gonna shake God's hand
Thank him for more blessings than one man can stand
Then I'm gonna get a guitar and start a rock-n-roll band
Check into a swell hotel; ain't the afterlife grand?

- From John Prine's "When I Get To Heaven"

Prine had several health issues during his life, including a cancer diagnosis in early 1998 that required the removal of part of his neck and damaged nerves in his tongue. In 2013, he underwent surgery to remove cancer in one of his lungs.

He leaves behind Fiona, his wife since 1996, with whom he had sons Jack and Tony. Prine also adopted Fiona's son Jody from a previous relationship.

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From Fiona Whelan Prine... Our beloved John died yesterday evening at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville TN. We have no words to describe the grief our family is experiencing at this time. 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. My dearest wish is that people of all ages take this virus seriously and follow guidelines set by the CDC. We send our condolences and love to the thousands of other American families who are grieving the loss of loved ones at this time - and to so many other families across the world. 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. In lieu of flowers or gifts at this time we would ask that a donation be made to one of the following non profits: thistlefarms.org roomintheinn.org nashvillerescuemission.org

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In a 2018 interview with Pitchfork, Prine shared his thoughts on death.

“I guess I just process death differently than some folks,” he said. “Realizing you’re not going to see that person again is always the most difficult part about it. But that feeling settles, and then you are glad you had that person in your life, and then the happiness and the sadness get all swirled up inside you.”

Tributes to Prine are filling up social media, including one from Canadian astronaut (and singer) Chris Hadfield. "Goodbye, John Prine. Your wit and poetry are with me forever." 

COVID-19 has also claimed the life of country singer Joe Diffie and singer-songwriter Alan Merrill. Marianne Faithfull was hospitalized last week with symptoms and singers P!nk, Sara Bareilles and Christopher Cross said they recovered from the virus, as did Duran Duran bassist John Taylor.

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