John Edward Prine (October 10, 1946 – April 7, 2020) was an American singer-songwriter of country-folk music. He was active as a composer, recording artist, live performer, and occasional actor from the early 1970s until his death. He was known for an often humorous style of original music that has elements of protest and social commentary.
Born and raised in Maywood, Illinois, Prine learned to play the guitar at age 14. He attended classes at Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music. After serving in West Germany with the U.S. Army, he returned to Chicago in the late 1960s, where he worked as a mailman, writing and singing songs first as a hobby and then as a club performer.
A member of Chicago's folk revival, a laudatory review by critic Roger Ebert built Prine's popularity. Singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson heard Prine at Steve Goodman's insistence, and Kristofferson invited Prine to be his opening act, leading to Prine's eponymous debut album with Atlantic Records in 1971. The acclaim Prine earned from his first LP led to three more albums for Atlantic. He then recorded three albums with Asylum Records. In 1981, he co-founded Oh Boy Records, an independent label where he released most of his subsequent albums.
Widely cited as one of the most influential songwriters of his generation, Prine was known for humorous lyrics about love, life, and current events, as well as serious songs with social commentary and songs that recollect sometimes melancholy tales from his life.
Prine was the son of William Mason Prine, a tool-and-die maker, and Verna Valentine (Hamm), a homemaker, both originally from Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. He was born and raised in the Chicago suburb of Maywood. In summers, they would go back to visit family near Paradise, Kentucky. Prine started playing guitar at age 14, taught by his brother, David. He attended classes at Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music, and graduated from Proviso East High School in Maywood, Illinois. He was a U.S. Postal Service mailman for five years and was drafted into the United States Army during the Vietnam War era, serving as a vehicle mechanic in West Germany before beginning his musical career in Chicago.
Prine is widely regarded as one of the most influential songwriters of his generation. He has been referred to as "the Mark Twain of songwriting".
Johnny Cash, in his autobiography Cash, wrote, "I don't listen to music much at the farm, unless I'm going into songwriting mode and looking for inspiration. Then I'll put on something by the writers I've admired and used for years—Rodney Crowell, John Prine, Guy Clark, and the late Steve Goodman are my Big Four ..."
Roger Waters, when asked by Word Magazine in 2008 if he heard Pink Floyd's influence in newer British bands such as Radiohead, replied, "I don't really listen to Radiohead. I listened to the albums and they just didn't move me in the way, say, John Prine does. His is just extraordinarily eloquent music—and he lives on that plane with Neil [Young] and [John] Lennon." He later named Prine as among the five most important songwriters.
Prine's influence is seen in the work of younger artists, whom he often mentored, including Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires, Brandi Carlile, Sturgill Simpson, Kacey Musgraves, Margo Price, Tyler Childers, and Robin Pecknold.
The last song Prine recorded before he died was "I Remember Everything", released on June 12, 2020, alongside a music video. It was released following the two-hour special tribute show, A Tribute Celebrating John Prine aired on June 11, 2020, which featured Sturgill Simpson, Vince Gill, Jason Isbell, Kacey Musgraves, Bonnie Raitt, Rita Wilson, Eric Church, Brandi Carlile and many other country artists and friends. On the first night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, Prine singing "I Remember Everything" was the soundtrack to the COVID-19 memorial video. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.