Tuesday, April 07, 2020

RIP John Prine - the music world mourns the legend

Bonnie Raitt, left, with John Prine at the 2020 Grammys' Lifetime
Achievement Awards on January 26, 2020.
Photo courtesy of the Recording Academy.
Post by Robert Kinsler

A week after the world lost Adam Schlesinger, now comes the terrible news that COVID-19 has also taken John Prine. The two-time Grammy winner was 73. He died earlier today (April 7, 2020) at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Earlier this year the legendary artist was recognized with one of the Grammys' Lifetime Achievement awards. He was paid tribute by the great Bonnie Raitt, who performed an acoustic version of Prine's classic "Angel From Montgomery" in homage.

"My friend John Prine, who is sitting right over there, wrote 'Angel From Montgomery' and so many other songs that changed my life," Raitt rhapsodized following the performance, while Prine was given a standing ovation in the audience. "I love you, John."

I loved Prine's set when I last caught him at the Stagecoach Festival in Indio, CA in spring 2014. 

Noted long-time Los Angeles Times music writer Robert Hilburn just tweeted out, speaking for many: "It's a heartbreaking night for all of us who've loved John Prine's music for all these years. RIP. He was 73. On the very top shelf of American songwriters."

The band Dawes also responded to his passing: "RIP John Prine. Thanks for being so much more than we could ever deserve." 
John Prine performing at the Stagecoach Festival.

Songstress Whitney Rose also reacted: "Thank you, John. You raised the bar in every way. Rest in power knowing that you changed the world for the better." 

Roger McGuinn wrote: "Peace John Prine. He was a major influence in my life and a fellow student at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. His storytelling ability was amazing!" 

Tweeted Peter Holsapple: "We have lost a giant. Rest In Peace." 

The official account for the Stagecoach Festival spoke for many this evening: "One of the best there ever was. Love you forever John." 

John Fogerty acknowledged the tremendous loss: "Rest In Peace, John Prine. You're in paradise now." 

Bruce Springsteen 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." 

Bonnie Raitt tweeted following the loss of her good friend: "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." 

We join the world in mourning the passing of revered country and folk singer/songwriter John Prine. John earned 11 GRAMMY® nominations and received two GRAMMY Awards® for Best Contemporary Folk Album, one for The Missing Years at the 34th GRAMMYs® and another for Fair & Square at the 48th GRAMMYs. His self-titled debut album was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame® in 2015, and just recently he was announced as a 2020 Recording Academy® Lifetime Achievement Award recipient for his contributions to music during his nearly five-decade career. Widely lauded as one of the most influential songwriters of his generation, John’s impact will continue to inspire musicians for years to come. We send our deepest condolences to his loved ones.

Harvey Mason jr.
Interim President/CEO
Recording Academy

“We were saddened to learn of John Prine’s passing, the loss of a true American treasure. He was admired both for his art and for his sheer humanity.  He had a nobility that radiated liked a million watt radio station just across the border. We last crossed paths at the Memphis Music Hall of Fame ceremony where he inducted Cowboy Jack Clement and we got to do the honors for Roy Orbison.  We greeted each other warmly and I vividly recall passing a most pleasant time with the genuine article.  Never to be forgotten.”  - Billy F Gibbons

“In the summer of 1973, days after I’d seen my first rock concert (Grand Funk Railroad), Steve Leder, my friend and band mate, took me downstairs to his teen lair and played me John Prine’s “Dear Abby.” “Whaddya think,” he asked. ‘Country’ I thought. ‘I hate country.’ Steve picked up the needle and played the song again. And once more after that. I started to hear something in those lyrics; John Prine was speaking to me. He was wry, he made me smile, he was doing something different. It wasn’t Grand Funk. It wasn’t Alice Cooper or The Rolling Stones either. With just his acoustic guitar and a ragged voice it became clear that you didn’t need stacks of Marshall amps to blow people away. You needed only to mine the minutiae of living and take careful notes to make people feel the weight of their humanity.” - Peter Himmelman

"My world, the world of songwriters and guitar pickers, is reeling from the death of John Prine yesterday. We labor at our craft in hopes we can attain some vague approximation of the easy genius of his songs.
John Lennon said the artist’s role is as “a reflection of us all,” and no one did that with as much facility as Prine, in my opinion. From Mr. Peabody’s coal train to a poster of an old rodeo to hammering nails in planks to hair so unnaturally curled, any listener could relate to his characters and his takes on love and life. There was a plain generality to it, but it was filled with so many tiny bejeweled details that addressed the specific as well. And oh, the emotion from that road-worn beat-up voice. The real thing in every respect.
We are left with a catalog of his songs, a phalanx of his albums and minds full of memories to assuage this loss as best we can. It’s so vast, yet I think we all hoped for even more from John, had his life not been cut short.
We will have to learn to be satisfied with what we have and to revel in all of it.
We hoped for a miracle that did not come for John; and when it didn’t happen, he accidentally became someone in one of his own songs." - The dB's 
Peter Holsapple

More than once, I saw Prine get so tickled with himself he couldn’t keep his teeth in his mouth, the grin would overtake him, but he’d keep talking anyway. I remember him pointing at the TV screen one night in the early nineties. The news was showing clips of the crowd at a folk festival that had taken place that afternoon and the people looked like they were trying to re-create Woodstock, headbands, tie dye, the usual. Prine said, ‘Look at them out there trying to be hippies. There’s not a cavity in that whole crowd. I never met a hippie chick didn’t have a mouth full of rotten teeth.’ John Prine was a realist.” —James McMurtry

"My first ever live concert at the esteemed ‘mother church’  The Ryman Auditorium was John Prine...and I sat there like a school kid waiting for the spring break bell, I was so excited...he did all his greatest hits, but at that time (around 1995)...he was especially pushing his newest body of work, Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings.
I believe I had a spiritual awakening when I heard him and his full band do 'Lake Marie' for the first time, in THAT venue. I mean, my soul shook. Funny thing is, I still feel that way EVERY time I hear it now, long after....just like I do when I hear Ain’t Hurtin Nobody. All the Way with You. We Are the Lonely.   I Love you So Much It Hurts and This Love is Real. There’s not a weak song on the whole damn record, but then....that was John. He was one of those lyrical untouchables, but every word, every single word, reached out and touched you. He was the apidimi of real. All those great songs, all those great records, such a lovely man...such a gentle soul. Good God!!! 

We cried in our kitchen tonight when we found out he’d passed away. Matt and I both realized we’d only met him once each, but both experiences equally important enough to remember for life. John remembered your name. He made such tender-hearted eye contact,  he shook your hand and made you feel like you were long lost family. He wasn’t a show-boater or a grand-stander and he didn’t seem like he had much use for those that were. 

He wrote simple songs with fairly simple chords about real life things, but NOBODY could do em like he could. You could tell he had a mind that was deep as the deepest well and that’s why writing simple songs is so complex. It’s flat out hard to say the same ol’ thing and make it sound new, fresh, genuine, and poetic. John Prine was one of my all time favorite poets. The world will be one less honorable and talented man going forward. One less legend. Selfishly, I’d just wished I’d have gotten to sit and share lunch with him at his favorite meat and three where we met once, and visit a spell....or sing a duet with him....and watch him do his thing from a few feet away, I’ll always be a little extra sad about that. I wish love and support to his wife Fiona and his family during this confusing time in our universe. Bless you all. 
One of the all time favorite quotes from the movie Daddy and Them was a line John so perfectly and timely delivered
“Don’t never let it be too late...”
John Prine, you were right on time, and you touched the hearts of every set of ears that got to hear you. Until we meet again, I look forward to that lunch." - Heidi Newfield 

“John Prine was one of the most introspective songwriters of our time. 

I was introduced to John Prine’s songs while on Navy leave in a small club in Charleston, SC. many years ago. Songs like “Dear Abbey” and “Sam Stone” drew me in as a fan of great lyrics. But “Hello In There” and “Angel From Montgomery” stole my heart and became my favorites.

John Prine not only inspired me to be a songwriter, but to want to be a better songwriter. I’m still working on that... 

Rest In Peace John.” - Ruthie Foster

Read an outstanding remembrance of Prine's life and art just published in American Songwriter here.

Finally, watch a moving October 1, 2019 performance of Prine performing "Summer's End" backstage at the John Anson Ford Theater: 

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