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John Prine, who traded his job as a Chicago mail carrier to become one of the most revered singer-songwriters of the last half-century, died Monday of COVID-19 complications, after surviving multiple bouts with cancer. He was 73.
Since he broke through onto the folk scene with his 1971 self-titled debut album, Prine was hailed by critics and his musical peers for his keen observational powers, mordant sense of humor and finely wrought portraits of the human condition, from his trenchant tale of a Vietnam vet’s downward spiral upon his unceremonious homecoming (“Sam Stone”) to his empathetic expressions of the loneliness of old age (“Angel From Montgomery” and “Hello in There”).
The article goes on to state the following:
He had been hospitalized on March 26 in Nashville with coronavirus symptoms, on the heels of previous hospitalizations for heart issues, in addition to treatments for throat cancer in 1998 and lung cancer in 2013. Both affected his singing voice, but he continued touring regularly up through last year.
Rolling Stone reported:
Prine, who left behind an extraordinary body of folk-country classics, was hospitalized last month after the sudden onset of COVID-19 symptoms, and was placed in intensive care for 13 days. Prine’s wife and manager, Fiona, announced on March 17th that she had tested positive for the virus after they had returned from a European tour.
As a songwriter, Prine was admired by Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, and others, known for his ability to mine seemingly ordinary experiences — he wrote many of his classics as a mailman in Maywood, Illinois — for revelatory songs that covered the full spectrum of the human experience. There’s “Hello in There,” about the devastating loneliness of an elderly couple; “Sam Stone,” a portrait of a drug-addicted Vietnam soldier suffering from PTSD; and “Paradise,” an ode to his parents’ strip-mined hometown of Paradise, Kentucky, which became an environmental anthem. Prine tackled these subjects with empathy and humor, with an eye for “the in-between spaces,” the moments people don’t talk about, he told Rolling Stone in 2017. “Prine’s stuff is pure Proustian existentialism,” Dylan said in 2009. “Midwestern mind-trips to the nth degree.”
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