Gone Two Years, John Prine Is Certainly Not Forgotten

by Jim Casey

John Prine left this mortal world on April 7, 2020. The Grammy-winning singer/songwriter was 73 when he died from complications of COVID-19. It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since his passing. John may be gone, but he’s certainly not forgotten—at least I haven’t forgotten. And I know I’m not the only one.

If you recall, 2020 was an especially tough year on the country music front, not to mention the country as a whole. In less than 12 months, we lost Kenny Rogers (March 20), Joe Diffie (March 29), John Prine (April 7), Charlie Daniels (July 6), Jerry Jeff Walker (Oct. 23), Billy Joe Shaver (Oct. 28), Hal Ketchum (Nov. 23), and Charley Pride (Dec. 12). Of course, Rogers and Pride dominated country radio during long stretches of their careers. And even Daniels, Diffie, and Ketchum had stellar runs on the country charts. But John Prine never enjoyed radio success in the traditional sense. So I always feel compelled to “remind” folks about Prine, needed or not.

In fact, I’d say with certainty I’ve heard more Prine songs on the radio in the two years since his passing than I did during his lifetime. Of course, that’s thanks to WMOT public radio out of Murfreesboro, Tenn., which absolutely crushes it with their branded Roots Radio. Then again, you can always stream what you want to hear, but it’s nice that a terrestrial radio station in the Nashville area has its fingers on the pulse of Americana music. I digress.

Rediscover (or Discover) John Prine

John Prine gave country music (or folk, or roots, or Americana, or whatever genre you want to call it) a lot of happiness during his lifetime. And for that, I salute you Mr. Prine (oh, yeah, Prine was a U.S. Army veteran, serving as a mechanic in Germany during the Vietnam War). So everyone should salute him for his service to our nation.

Known for his wry pen and gravelly voice, Prine gave us tunes that should be in everyone’s listening catalog: “Sam Stone,” “Paradise,” “Christmas in Prison,” “Mexican Home,” “Pretty Good,” and his duet with Iris Dement, “In Spite of Ourselves,” among others. The last song John recorded shortly before he died, “I Remember Everything,” will absolutely slay anyone with a soul. It’s so touching, I can’t bring myself to play it much on my own. But WMOT surprises me with it from time to time, and I thank them beneath my breath.

Of course, there’s also a slew of songs you may not recognize as John’s work. But check the songwriting credits on George Strait’s “I Just Want to Dance With You,” “Bonnie Raitt’s “Angel From Montgomery,” David Allan Coe’s “You Never Even Called Me By My Name,” and Don Williams’ “Love Is On a Roll.” Yep, Prine had a hand writing each tune.

In Spite of Ourselves

Over his 50-year career, Jon copped four Grammy Awards. He won two posthumously for the aforementioned “I Remember Everything” in 2021. In addition, he was recognized with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020. John is also a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and a winner of six awards from the American Music Association.

In fact, one of the last times I saw John perform was at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium during the 2017 Americana Music Awards. Not only was he named Artist of the Year, but he joined Iris DeMent (who was recognized with the Americana Trailblazer Award) onstage for a rendition of “In Spite of Ourselves.”

And I’ll leave you with that performance as we remember John on the two-year anniversary of his death. RIP, Mr. Prine.