John Prine Leaves Us With The Wisdom from Another World (RIP)

photo: David McClister

This world never deserved John Prine, and now the bill has come due. His fellow artists and songwriters always knew what they had within their midst. Attentive audiences don’t need to be told how the influence and observational brilliance of John Prine reshaped our world and brought understanding and light to many. But he remained humbly “ours” for 73 gracious years, while the rest of the world trod by unbeknown, or only knowing him from the performances of his song by others. It’s those others—the ones who don’t know, and may never know of Prine’s work—who have suffered a loss. For the rest of us, we remain filled with the poetic decadence his music served to us, and will for eternity.

We were lucky that we had John Prine as long as we did—on loan from the cosmos, or wherever his spirit emanated from. But life on this cold ball of rock was always too ordered and normal for John. So now he’s moved on to where light and love comprise the ground and sky, to spin his little stories that might seem silly or even inane if written on paper, but rang profound in our hearts and souls.

John Prine wrote kids songs for adults. His whimsical tales enhanced with tiny observances of life’s perfect little details were treasure troves of wit, hiding a deeper wisdom that helped breed understanding of larger meanings, sugar-coated so they went down easy, but with all the potency of the most powerful odes in the history of music or poetry.

Don’t mourn for John Prine. He would be embarrassed by all the hubbub being made about his passing. John Prine never knew that he was John Prine, remaining surprised anyone cared about his scribblings and bad singing all the way up to his death. His humility and honest surprise at the reception he received and the success he enjoyed just made us love him even more, exacerbating his embarrassment, and humility. Of course digesting this news is hard, but we can be consoled in knowing John Prine received what many of his master songwriting brethren rarely or ever receive—deserved recognition.

In recent years, John Prine had become the patron saint of Americana. John Prine set historic numbers for the release of his 2018 album The Tree of Forgiveness—his first album of original material in 13 years. He also won the Americana Artist of the Year in both 2017 and 2018, won both the Americana Song of the Year and Album of the Year in 2019, and enjoyed a resurgence in popularity as younger artists embraced him as a songwriting pioneer and legend. Prine was also nominated for consideration by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2018, speaking to his wide influence. He also received the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Grammys in early 2020.

But selfish as we are, we were still hoping for more. It doesn’t help that while suffering from a laundry list of maladies even before he became arguably the most devastating of the Coronavirus victims, John Prine remained at the very top of his game. If John Prine sang, or even spoke, you shut your trap, leaned in, and listened. Because you never new what profundity may stumble out. At any moment, John Prine could offer more wisdom accidentally than many scribes are able to conjure in hours, days, or even lifetimes of laborious effort. And now that little dynamo that made life that much more enriching has moved on. What a mother of a damn shame.

But luckily, John Prine left us a great collection of songs from John Prine to help guide us through a world without him. And if we ever needed the songs of John Prine, it would be now.

So long you little bastard. It’s just like you to pick the perfect time to exit.

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John Prine passed away on April 7th due to complications from COVID-19, his family has confirmed. He was hospitalized on March 26 after showing Coronavirus symptoms, and was intubated a few days later.

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