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John Prine: Bruce Springsteen leads tributes to late singer

John PrineImage copyright Getty Images

Bruce Springsteen has said he is “crushed by the loss” of US country-folk singer John Prine.

The Grammy-winning songwriter died on Tuesday, aged 73, due to Covid-19 complications, his publicist confirmed.

Prine had been in hospital in Nashville since last week with coronavirus symptoms, with his wife and manager, Fiona Whelan Prine, posting updates about his condition online.

Prine was revered by his peers including Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.

“John and I were ‘New Dylans’ together in the early 70s and he was never anything but the lovliest guy in the world,” tweeted The Boss.

“A true national treasure and a songwriter for the ages.”

Prine signed with Atlantic Records and released his self-titled debut album in 1971, after fellow singer-songwriter, Kris Kristofferson, saw him perform in a Chicago club.

The album included songs like Angel from Montgomery, Paradise, and Sam Stone, which gave bittersweet snapshots of American society and fed into the anti-war movement.

After serving the US army in Germany during the Vietnam war, Prine returned to home to Chicago where he worked as a postman.

While doing his mail rounds, he wrote songs that would see him emerge, from open mic nights, as a key player on the windy city’s folk revival scene in the 1970s and go on to become one of America’s most influential artists.

“I likened the mail route to being in a library without any books. You just had time to be quiet and think, and that’s where I would come up with a lot of songs,” Prine told the Chicago Tribune in a 2010 interview.

“If the song was any good I could remember it later and write it down,”

‘Beautiful songs’

Speaking to the Huffington Post in 2009, Dylan – who performed with Prine – described his music as “pure Proustian existentialism”.

“Midwestern mind trips to the nth degree. And he writes beautiful songs.”

Robbie Robertson, from The Band – who used to back Dylan – described Prine as “a genius”.

He won his first of four Grammy Award in 1991, for The Missing Years, which bagged best contemporary folk album. It was a category he would top again in 2005 for Fair and Square.

“We join the world in mourning the passing of revered country and folk singer/songwriter John Prine,” the Recording Academy wrote in a statement.

“Widely lauded as one of the most influential songwriters of his generation, John’s impact will continue to inspire musicians for years to come. We send our deepest condolences to his loved ones.”

Prine underwent cancer surgery on his throat in 2008 – and on his lungs in 2013 – but joked that it had actually improved his singing voice.

“If I can make myself laugh about something I should be crying about, that’s pretty good,” he joked.

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