Artist News

John Prine dies

By | Published on Wednesday 8 April 2020

John Prine

Singer-songwriter John Prine has died from complications related to COVID-19. He was 73.

It was announced on 26 Mar that Prine had been admitted to intensive care after contracting the virus. Earlier in the month, his wife and manager Fiona announced that she had tested positive for the disease after they had returned from tour dates in Europe, though she recovered. Prine remained in intensive care until his death yesterday.

His family have not yet issued a statement, but have confirmed the musician’s death to various media outlets.

Born in 1946, Prine grew up on the outskirts of Chicago, initially working as a postman after leaving school. It was on his delivery rounds that he wrote some of the first songs he would release – although some songs on his debut album actually dated back to when he was just fourteen.

He began performing those early songs live in the late 60s and immediately drew a strong following on the Chicago folk scene as word of his talents spread.

In 1971, Kris Kristofferson and Paul Anka saw him play, which led to him signing his first record deal with Atlantic later that year. Four years later after the release of his fourth album ‘Common Sense’ – and unhappy with Atlantic’s work to promote his music – he moved to David Geffen’s Asylum label, where he released three albums between 1978 and 1980.

In 1982, Prine decided to leave the mainstream label system, instead setting up his own label, Oh Boy Records, and selling albums – starting with 1984’s ‘Aimless Love’ – via mail order, making him an early pioneer of the direct-to-fan business model.

It was through Oh Boy that Prine released the bulk of his nineteen studio albums, an output that assured him a consistent and sustainable career for more than five decades. However, the greatest commercial success of that career came very recently.

In 2018, he released ‘The Tree Of Forgiveness’, his first album of original material for thirteen years. The album debuted at number five on the Billboard 200 album chart, the highest chart position of his career. Previous highest was 2016’s ‘For Better, Or Worse’, a collection of duets with female singers, including Kacey Musgraves and Alison Krauss, covering classic country songs.

The success of what would become his final album brought a boost to Prine’s live performances too, seeing him play some of the biggest venues he had ever performed in.

Twice during his life Prine was diagnosed with cancer – in his neck in 1998 and lung in 2013. On both occasions he recovered following surgery. Although in 1998, that surgery involved removing part of his neck which changed the sound of his voice, giving his vocals a more gravelly sound.

Prine is survived by his third wife Fiona, their two sons Jack and Tommy, and adopted son Jody – Fiona’s son from an earlier previous relationship, with whom she co-managed Prine in recent years.