Legendary Americana singer-songwriter John Prine died Tuesday at age 73 from complications from coronavirus, Rolling Stone reported.
While not a name known to many in modern country music, his legacy as a songwriter was likely known by most. He famously co-wrote the classic David Allan Coe hit “You Never Even Called Me By My Name.” But not wanting to alienate his primary country audience in the 1970s, Prine declined to publicly take a credit on the “perfect country and western song.” Instead it was solely credited to Steve Goodman, who is mentioned in the bridge of the most famous version of the hit.
Prine had been battling COVID-19 symptoms for several days, after his wife and manager Fiona Prine had been diagnosed positive as well. Fiona Prine had been updating the public on her husband’s condition on social media.
Prine had notably battled several other health conditions over the years, including cancer twice. Once in 1998 where he had surgery to remove a portion of his neck.
Prine was a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and was a recipient of the 2016 PEN New England Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence Award, an honor previously given to Leonard Cohen and Chuck Berry. Prine influenced Americana artists like Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, and Brandi Carlile, to name a few. He has been covered by Bonnie Raitt (“Angel From Montgomery”), George Strait, Johnny Cash, Miranda Lambert, Zac Brown and many others.
He had a great final act, with a nomination for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (he hasn’t yet been voted in), but was recently inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. His final album, 2018’s The Tree of Forgiveness, was his first album of original material in 13 years. It went to Number Five on the Billboard 200, the highest debut of his career, and he played some of his biggest shows ever on that tour, including a sold-out concert at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.
Emotion poured out across the music industry on social media Thursday night.
Grammy-award winner Jason Isbell, who was notably quite close with Prine, kept his Tweet simple: “We love you John.”
Lukas Nelson, son of Willie Nelson, said “We are heartbroken to hear about the passing of John Prine. His life and music will be celebrated by us as long as we are able. We send prayers and condolences to his family at this time.”
Toby Keith said “The great John Prine has passed away from the virus. He showed me how to ‘let it rip’ when it comes to songwriting. There’s a huge hole in the music world tonight. John did it best. RIP. -T”
– Brian Ives, Managing Editor, Beasley Media contributed to this story.