Songwriter John Prine dead at 73 - music world pays tribute

John Prine
(Image credit: Tom Hill / Getty Images)

American musician, singer and songwriter John Prine has died at the age of 73. The news was confirmed by his family.

Last month, it was revealed that Prine had been admitted to hospital after showing coronavirus symptoms, with his family reporting that he was in critical condition.

Born in Maywood, Illinois, in October 1946, Prine released his self-titled debut album in 1971 and went on to record and release a further 17 studio albums, his last The Tree Of Forgiveness arriving in 2018.

Highly regarded by his peers, Prine's work has been covered by a variety of artists, including Bonnie Raitt and Joan Baez.

In his 1997 autobiography Cash, Johnny Cash said: “I don’t listen to music much at the farm, unless I’m going into songwriting mode and looking for inspiration. 

“Then I’ll put on something by the writers I’ve admired and used for years – Rodney Crowell, John Prine, Guy Clark, and the late Steve Goodman are my Big Four – or any music in any field that has real artistry, or something that promises a connection to what’s essential in my own music: Old blues, old country, old gospel.”

In a 2015 interview with Haaretz, Roger Waters named Prine as one of the best songwriters. He said: "John Lennon is an important songwriter, as is Paul McCartney. So is Neil Young, Bob Dylan, so is John Prine." 

Amongst the musicians paying tribute to Prine was Bruce Springsteen, who wrote, "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."

Ron Sexsmith tweeted, "As if we didn't have enough devastating news, the great John Prine has died and I am heartbroken. I always saw him as a sort of Mark Twain figure, a humorist but mainly a humanist. He could make you laugh one moment and rip your heart open in the next. He always very nice to me."

Bonnie Raitt wrote, "Words can't even come close. I'm crushed by the loss of my dear friend, John. My heart and love go out to Fiona and all the family. For all of us whose hearts are breaking, we will keep singing his songs and holding him near," while Rival Sons tweeted, "Anyone who listened thought you sounded like family. Thank you, John Prine."

Red Hot Chilli Peppers bassist Flea wrote, "Now John Prine. What a beautiful songwriter; all those warm songs that cut their own path through a tangled world. I love him. Corona got him too. R.I.P.", and Beth Hart just said, "There Are No Words."

Prine won a Grammy Award in 1991 in the Best Contemporary Folk Album category for The Missing Years and again in 2005 for the record Fair & Square. He was also inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame last summer and was shortlisted for The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2018.

Prine survived cancer twice, first being diagnosed with squamous cell cancer in his neck in the mid-90s and again in 2013, when he discovered he had lung cancer. As a result, he had part of his left lung removed.

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.