John Prine, one of America’s greatest homespun songwriters, died Tuesday at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center from complications arising from a battle with COVID-19. Prine was hospitalized in late March after a sudden onset of symptoms related to the novel coronavirus. Concern spread rapidly over social media when it was reported that Prine had been intubated and admitted to the hospital’s ICU.
Prine’s initially appeared to improve, and he was upgraded to stable condition and transferred from the intensive care unite after 13 days. Prine’s family confirmed his death with Rolling Stone on Tuesday.
Fiona Whelan Prine, his wife, posted an emotional statement online Wednesday morning.
“We have no words to describe the grief our family is experiencing at this time,” she wrote. “John was the love of my life and adored by our sons Jody, Jack and Tommy, daughter in law Fanny, and by our grandchildren. …“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.”
Fiona Whelan Prine asked that in lieu of flowers, fans make donations at thistlefarms.org, roomintheinn.org and nashvillerescuemission.org. She also asked that fans continue to heed the guidelines set forth by the CDC, and expressed condolences and love to the thousands of families worldwide who are grieving the loss of loved ones from COVID-19.
“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,” she wrote. “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.”
Prine’s emotionally eviscerating songs were admired widely and condolence filled social media Tuesday night.
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 lovliest guy in the world. A true national treasure and a songwriter for the ages. We send our love and prayers to his family.
— Bruce Springsteen (@springsteen) April 8, 2020
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. @JohnPrineMusic
— Bonnie Raitt (@TheBonnieRaitt) April 8, 2020
Just give me one thing I can hold on to. I’m just heartbroken. #johnprine
— rosanne cash (@rosannecash) April 8, 2020
Prine was known for his unadorned folk style and many of his songs tackled working class social issues like poverty and addiction.
His prolific output began in 1971 with his self-titled debut. Discovered by Kris Kristofferson, Prine recorded 18 studio albums during his nearly 50-year career. Prine’s output slowed after his 2007 release, Standard Songs For Average People, but in 2018 he returned with a powerful and critically acclaimed final record, The Tree of Forgiveness.
Prine’s songs often dealt with mortality. The Maywood, Illinois native’s song “When I Get to Heaven,” from his final album, imagines the singer living larger than ever in the afterlife. “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?”
But “Summer’s End,” on the same album, emphasized life’s fleeting treasures. Sang Prine: “The moon and stars hang out in bars just talking/ I still love that picture of us walking/ Just like that ol’ house we thought was haunted/ Summer’s end came faster than we wanted.”
Prine won two Grammy Awards, but he never quite reached mainstream success, though those like Kristofferson, as well as staled like Bob Dylan recognized genius as soon as they saw him. His well-known songs include “Angel from Montgomery,” later covered by Bonnie Raitt, as well as “Christmas in Prison” and “Sabu Visits the Twin Cities Alone.”
View this post on Instagram
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
More comments from fellow musicians:
“I have enjoyed John’s music for many years. He was a truly gifted man and he will be missed. My prayers go out to his family.” – Charley Pride
“All of The Oak Ridge Boys are saddened by the loss of John Prine. The man was a genius songwriter! I have been listening to his music and praying for him since he got sick and to be honest I didn’t really know John personally but my heart is heavy nonetheless.” – Joe Bonsall / Oak Ridge Boys
“Nashville has lost another legendary artist. John Prine will always be remembered for his great music. I will always remember John’s wonderful smile and how nice and caring he was. Sending lots of love to his family.” – Crystal Gayle
“So sad to see another great music legend leave us. My family sends prayers to John Prine’s family.” – Lee Greenwood
“John was a sweet genius who always had time for conversation with me and as a songwriter, he was untouchable.” – T. Graham Brown
“After having the honor of seeing John Prine on a few occasions, it was no secret how much he is loved and admired. I last saw him at the Marty Stuart Late Night Jam, and was fortunate to have a front row seat. I captured many great photos, and will cherish the photos as a wonderful memory of witnessing one of the greatest songwriters to walk God’s Earth.” – Rhonda Vincent
“I really feel like we’ve lost one of our generation’s great champions for living outside the senses.” – Lacy J. Dalton
“John Prine was a treasure! He inspired every singer/songwriter who has ever lived. He has survived several health challenges and I was praying that he would survive this. There was only one John Prine. Everyone looked up to him and he will be missed by not only Nashville, but around the world. We love you, John.” – Deborah Allen
“I used to sing his song “Paradise” about Muhlenburg county during my shows in clubs. It was written about how the coal mines stripped away the vegetation and trees. He also wrote “Angel From Montgomery,” which was a hit by Bonnie Raitt. This is the kind of music that I have always loved. It was a touch of blues and a touch of pop. I have always loved his music and style. He was a leader in the “awareness” songs and was a huge influence in my life and my approach to music. You will be missed, John.” – Janie Fricke
“I first met John Prine in the 70’s backstage at the Grand Ole Opry. He was perhaps one of the nicest guys I’ve ever had the honor to meet. No star attitude whatsoever. He was just an average guy who loved words. And he became one of the greatest wordsmiths of our time. His lyrics are pure poetry. He never worried about making his songs commercial. He wrote from the heart and the gut. Ironically I was in the studio last month and recorded one of his songs that I’ve loved for years called “Blue Umbrella.” John would say in three minutes what an author would say in 256 pages. What a talent!” – Tim Atwood
“So sad to hear the passing of the legendary John Prine. One of the most influential songwriters of our time gone way too soon! His music will live on forever.” – J.D. Shelburne
“John Prine was one of the most beloved and well-versed songwriters in the business, and his passing is a huge loss to songwriters and fans alike. The mark he made on the americana/folk/country music industry was remarkable – one that no one else could ever dream of accomplishing. His songwriting will be deeply missed, but even more than that is his infectious smile and sweet spirit. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of John’s family and friends, as well as all the fans he has made over the years. There will truly never be another John Prine.” – Paige King Johnson