John Prine is an American folk and country singer-songwriter. He has been active since 1971 when he released his self-titled debut album. Throughout his career, Prine has been known for his witty lyrics and social commentary. His songs have been covered by many artists. In 2019, Prine was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. With a career spanning over 50 years, Prine is truly a legend.
John Prine was born on October 10, 1946, in Maywood, Illinois. His parents, William and Verna Prine were of Irish descent. Prine began playing guitar at the age of 14. He was influenced by Bob Dylan and The Everly Brothers. After high school, he served in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1968. He was stationed in Germany where he wrote his first song, “Sam Stone”. Upon returning to the United States, Prine started performing at open mics in Chicago.
Prine’s self-titled debut album was released in 1971. The album includes “Angel from Montgomery”, which has been covered by many artists, including Bonnie Raitt and John Hiatt. Prine’s second album, Diamonds in the Rough, was released in 1972. The album includes “Paradise”, which was later covered by George Strait. In 1973, Prine released his third album, Sweet Revenge. The album includes “The Great Compromise”, which is a commentary on racism and hypocrisy. Prine’s fourth album, Common Sense, was released in 1975. The album includes “Sam Stone”, a song about a Vietnam War veteran who becomes addicted to drugs. Prine’s fifth album, Bruised Orange, was released in 1978. The album includes “That’s the Way That the World Goes ‘Round”, which is a commentary on the cycle of violence. Prine’s sixth album, Pink Cadillac, was released in 1979. The album includes “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness”, which is a commentary on the human condition.
The 1980s were a time of change and growth for Prine. He released two more albums, 1980’s Storm Windows and 1984’s Aimless Love. Both albums were met with critical acclaim, but commercial success continued to elude him. In 1985, Prine was diagnosed with cancer and underwent surgery to remove a tumor from his neck. The surgery was successful, and Prine made a full recovery. In 1986, Prine released his seventh album, German Afternoons. The album was recorded in Germany with a group of musicians. The album received a Grammy nomination in the category Best Contemporary Folk Recording”.
The 1990s were a period of creative growth for Prine. He released three albums in the 1990s, 1991’s The Missing Years, 1995’s Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings, and 1999’s In Spite of Ourselves. All three albums received critical acclaim, and In Spite of Ourselves earned Prine another Grammy Award Nominated, this time in the category of Best Contemporary Folk Album.
In the 2000s, Prine released two more albums, Fair & Square in 2005 and Standard Songs for Average People in 2007. He also toured extensively, performing concerts all over the United States and Europe. Prine’s next album, For Better, or Worse, was released in 2016. The album features duets with some of country music’s biggest names, including Lee Ann Womack, Alison Krauss, and Kacey Musgraves. Prine’s most recent album, The Tree of Forgiveness, was released in 2018. The album received critical acclaim, with many calling it Prine’s best work in years. In 2019, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
On April 7, 2020, Prine died from complications of COVID-19 at the age of 73. His death was met with widespread mourning, with many fans and fellow musicians paying tribute to him on social media. He is survived by his wife, Fiona Whelan Prine, and their two sons.
- John Prine (1971)
- Diamonds in the Rough (1972)
- Sweet Revenge (1973)
- Common Sense (1975)
- Bruised Orange (1978)
- Pink Cadillac (1979)
- Storm Windows (1980)
- Aimless Love (1984)
- German Afternoons (1986)
- The Missing Years (1991)
- A John Prine Christmas (1993)
- Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings (1995)
- In Spite of Ourselves (1999)
- Souvenirs (2000)
- Fair & Square (2005)
- Standard Songs for Average People (2007)
- For Better, or Worse (2016)
- The Tree of Forgiveness (2018)
Awards and Nominations
John Prine has won many awards throughout his career, including five Grammy Awards, the PEN New England Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence Award, and the Americana Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting. In 2019, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.