Lots of people dying these days, and musicians seem to be especially susceptible. Each one made their mark, and the grieving of their fans emphasizes how much our favorite musicians mean to us. John Prine is the one I felt closest to. He's was in his 70s, but it was somehow still a surprise when he fell victim to the virus.
Back in the mid-70s, I had an English teacher who told me one day that my writing reminded him of John Prine. This made no sense, then or now, but I've always appreciated the compliment nonetheless. If only I had Prine's ability to write songs that touched us in multiple ways, songs that could be funny and touching and lifelike and sad all at the same time.
We saw him once ... I think it was 1991. He would have been touring behind his then-new album, the wonderful The Missing Years, which among other things won him his first Grammy. There were so many good songs, it's hard to pick a favorite. Here's one I don't think I've posted yet on Facebook:
Prine had a way of rooting the slightest fantasy into real situations, and as a wordsmith, there was no one better. He always added just enough specifics to nail a song down:
When the farmers come to town
And they spread them eggs around
And they drop their daughters down at the roller rink
Well you're prob'ly standin' there
With your slicked-back, Brylcreem hair
Your Lucky's and your daddy's fine-tooth comb
If they knew what you were thinkin'
They'd run you out of Lincoln
In 2018, he released what now stands as his last album, The Tree of Forgiveness.
Prine was always a great collaborator ... there was room for others in his songs ... which is one reason among many that his duets album, In Spite of Ourselves, works so well.
I'd say Iris DeMent was his perfect partner, except someone else was there first. Back in 1991, Prine opened for this woman, and they sang this song together, as they did so many times:
(Ann Powers always writes great obituaries. It just sucks that she has to write them so often. "John Prine's Songs Saw The Whole Of Us".)