Rolling Stone magazine named John Prine the “Mark Twain of American songwriting.” Earlier this year, he won a Grammy award for lifetime achievement. On Tuesday, Prine succumbed to a COVID-19 infection, making him one of the most prominent victims of the novel coronavirus pandemic that is killing more Americans each day.
Every death caused by this disease is tragic and leaves broken hearts in its wake. When someone is admired as much as Prine, that wake is especially large. He was one of those musicians who never achieved huge commercial success but who gained the admiration of legendary performers like Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Bonnie Raitt because they recognized his enormous songwriting talent.
Prine’s songs are about outsiders, eccentrics, soldiers, addicts, working people, homemakers and other common Americans. They are funny, heart-wrenching, wry and sweet; sort of like life. As we all sit at home hoping the virus stays far from our doors, we could do worse than to spend time listening to a few John Prine songs and ponder the sad and happy aspects of our common humanity.
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