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Singer songwriter John Prine

John Prine (1946–2020), beloved singer-songwriter

by Kirk Fox

John Prine was an American folk singer-songwriter renowned for songs featuring offbeat lyrics about life, love, and social issues.

From playing Chicago bars to international acclaim

Born and raised in Maywood, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, Prine learned to play guitar and write songs at the renowned Old Town School of Folk Music. He was working as a mailman and playing out at night around Chicago when film critic Roger Ebert discovered him playing at a bar. Prine was part of the Chicago folk scene along with Steve Goodman. A year later in 1971, Kris Kristofferson went to see him play at the Earl of Old Town leading Prine to a record contract and he released his self-titled debut album. He went on to a critically acclaimed career influencing so many songwriters.

Prine on the night Kris Kristofferson saw him play

That night, a taxi pulled up in front of the dank old Earl, and out bounded Goodman, Kristofferson, actress Samantha Eggar and singer Paul Anka (who had been at the Quiet Night to hear Kristofferson). ”I’d had a few beers, and it was just me and the waitresses and a couple of the kitchen guys,” Prine said. “I was waiting to get paid. Goodman had a grin from ear-to-ear, ‘cause he’d put the whole thing together. They took the chairs off this table and sat down. ”Now that I think back on it, it was a real movie setting kind of thing. Kris Kristofferson . . . right there at the Earl, listening to me. And think about how unselfish that was of Goodman, to pour all his attention on me. But that’s exactly the way he was: He wouldn’t have passed the chance up to go show his buddy off, you know.” – Prine to the Tennesean in 2005


What they said about him

John Prine Video Gallery

Full obituary: New York Times

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