Lists Recaps Reviews Interviews Explainers

John Prine death: What famous songs did he write?

John Prine playing the guitar
John Prine died on Tuesday from complications from COVID-19.  Pic credit: @john_prine/Instagram

John Prine, one of America’s greatest songwriters, died on Tuesday in hospital in Nashville. The 73-year-old died due to complications after developing COVID-19.

Prine had been in the hospital for the past week suffering from coronavirus symptoms. His family and publicist had been keeping us up to date with his condition online.

He was revered by the best in the business, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan counted among his legion of fans throughout the world.

What were John Prine’s most famous songs?

In 1971, Prine signed with Atlantic Records and released his self-titled debut album in the same year.

The album included his most iconic songs, Angel from Montgomery, Hello In There, Paradise, and Sam Stone, which gave bittersweet tragic-comic snapshots of American society resonating with the anti-war movement.

Angel From Montgomery is his most widely known song, which he described as a portrait of “a middle-aged woman who feels older than she is.”

This soulful song became a country standard which was famously covered by Bonnie Raitt.

His songs often seemed to document seemingly ordinary experiences that went through the whole spectrum of human emotion.

Hello In There tells of the devastating loneliness of an elderly couple. Illegal Smile became an anthem for weed smokers across the country.

Sam Stone tells the story of a drug-addicted Vietnam soldier suffering from PTSD. Paradise was an ode to his parents’ strip-mined hometown of Paradise, Kentucky, which subsequently became an environmental anthem.

These iconic tunes were all from his 1971 debut album.

He won two Grammy awards in the Best Contemporary Folk Album category for The Missing Years in 1991, and for Fair and Square in 2005, and just this year he picked up a Lifetime Achievement award.

Prine served with the US Army in Germany during the Vietnam War, and when he returned Stateside to his native Chicago, he began working as a mailman.

It was on his mail route that he used to come up with songs.

In 2010 he told the Chicago Tribune, “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.”

Tributes poured in for John Prine

Bruce Springsteen wrote on Twitter that he was “crushed by the loss of John Prine.”

Steven Colbert wrote: “deep love and gratitude for his gift he gave us all- Goodbye, John Prine.”

The music industry also lost Alan Merrill at the end of last month to the coronavirus pandemic. He was best known for writing the rock classic I Love Rock’ N’ Roll.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments