John Prine death: Bruce Springsteen calls singer a national treasure as fans say their 'hearts are in pieces'
The folk music legend John Prine sadly passed away aged 73 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee on Tuesday, April 7. The cause of death was due to complications arising from COVID-19, his family said. Known for his lyrical genius, offbeat humor and raspy voice, Prine was revered in the music industry by legends as diverse as Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, the recently departed SNL music producer Hal Willner, and Americana legend Swamp Dogg.
As the story goes, a young Prine (then working as a mailman) was discovered in 1970 when Kris Kristofferson and Steve Goodman heard him play one night at a small Chicago club called the Fifth Peg. Kristofferson was so amazed by his material that Prine even gave him a special after-hours performance as a treat. Kristofferson later revealed that it “was unlike anything I’d heard before.” He then invited Prine on stage a few weeks later when he played with Carly Simon in New York, saying, "No way somebody this young can be writing so heavy.” Kristofferson humorously quipped at the time, “John Prine is so good, we may have to break his thumbs.” He was signed to an Atlantic Records contract the very next day after that performance.
He was soon crowned as folk music's successor to Bob Dylan, earning fans all over the country thanks to his signature voice, and amazing lyrical content. “He’s a true folk singer in the best folk tradition, cutting right to the heart of things, as pure and simple as rain,” American blues singer Bonnie Raitt told Rolling Stone magazine in 1992. Prine went on to influence multiple generations of singer-songwriters with his authentic style and perceptive observations about the human condition. He was a modest man to the end, saying, "It would’ve been nice to be like the other boys and girls and have a hit, you know, but it’s more honest to have your music passed down through families and friends and loved ones. I’m proud of it.”
Tributes have been pouring in for the recently departed singer as fans and admirers learned of the sad news. One fan posted, "John Prine, thank you for making me laugh and breaking my heart and sharing your boundless humanity. Thank you. This is one of the most gorgeous songs ever written. Bonnie Raitt & John Prine - Angel From Montgomery."
Other fans like musician Billy Strings said, "This is soo heart-breaking. Rest In Peace, John Prine." The recently departed SNL music producer Hal Willner had also posted before his death: "Sending love to John Prine who is in critical condition with COVID-19... John is a music giant. His songs are as good as it gets and he’s a spellbinding performer. Send good thoughts his way. 'I sound like that old guy down the street that doesn't chase you out of his apple tree.'”
Other people posting on social media were lifelong Prine fans: "I grew up with John Prine. My heart is in pieces." Another admirer said, "I’ve taught the lyrics of 'Sam Stone' at the University in my introductory creative writing course every year for the past 10 years and I don’t think I will stop #JohnPrine."
Music legend Bruce Springsteen said, "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."
Grammy winner Keb' Mo' posted "John Prine. He done gone over to the Other side with Bill Withers, two of the Great Ones. How fortunate we all are to have witnessed the humanity of these great men. We’re gonna miss these two."
Author Stephen King also tweeted, "Coronavirus has taken one of the great ones: John Prine, dead at 73. So many memorable songs." Another author David Corn posted "He brightened and expanded our lives with his haunting melodies and poignant tales. Thank you, John Prine. We will miss you dearly."