John Prine is an American country folk singer-songwriter…..who has been active as a composer, recording artist and live performer since the early 1970’s….and is known for an often humorous style of country music that has elements of protest and social commentary.
Prine learned to play the guitar at the age of 14….when he attended classes at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music…and after serving in the U.S. armed forces….he moved to Chicago in the late 1960’s, where he worked as a mailman….while writing and singing songs as a hobby….then as a member of Chicago’s folk revival, he was discovered by Kris Kristofferson….which resulted in the production of Prine’s self-titled debut album with Atlantic Records in 1971.
After receiving critical acclaim, Prine focused on his musical career….while recording three more albums for Atlantic….when he then signed to Asylum Records….where he recorded an additional three albums. In 1984 he co-founded Oh Boy Records, an independent record label….with which he would release most of his subsequent albums. After his battle with squamous cell cancer in 1998, Prine’s vocals deepened into a gravelly voice.
Widely cited as one of the most influential songwriters of his generation….Prine is known for humorous lyrics about love, life and current events….as well as serious songs with social commentary….or which recollect melancholy tales from his life.
In 2009, Bob Dylan told The Huffington Post that Prine was one of his favorite writers, stating “Prine’s stuff is pure Proustian existentialism….with Midwestern mind-trips to the nth degree….and he writes beautiful songs. I remember when Kris Kristofferson first brought him on the scene. ‘Sam Stone’ featuring the wonderfully evocative line: ‘There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes, and Jesus Christ died for nothing I suppose.’ All that stuff about “Sam Stone,” the soldier junkie daddy, and “Donald and Lydia”, where people make love from ten miles away. Nobody but Prine could write like that.”
Johnny Cash, in his autobiography Cash, wrote, “I don’t listen to music much at the farm, unless I’m going into songwriting mode and looking for inspiration. Then I’ll put on something by the writers I’ve admired and used for years–Rodney Crowell, John Prine, Guy Clark, and the late Steve Goodman are my Big Four…”
Roger Waters, when asked by Word Magazine in 2008 if he heard Pink Floyd’s influence in newer British bands like Radiohead, replied, “I don’t really listen to Radiohead. I listened to the albums and they just didn’t move me in the way, say, John Prine does. His is just extraordinarily eloquent music—and he lives on that plane with Neil Young and Lennon.”