Symphony Center Presents and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association join the world in mourning the death of singer-songwriter and Maywood native John Prine. Acclaimed by his peers, including Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson and Bruce Springsteen, as one of America’s greatest songwriters, he died April 7 from complications of COVID-19 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. He was 73.
A two-time Grammy Award winner and the recipient of Grammy Lifetime Achievement honors earlier this year, Mr. Prine performed many times over his career at Symphony Center, most recently in 2014.
Chicago author Dave Hoekstra, who covered Mr. Prine extensively during his years as an entertainment critic and radio host, posted this tribute on his website: “He wrote of angels that fly in from Montgomery, the mystical power of Wisconsin lakes, hobos, clocks and spoons and old people living alone in ‘Hello in There,’ ” referencing one of Mr. Prine’s most memorable works, which he composed at age 23, based on his memories of delivering newspapers to a senior citizens’ home. “One of his favorite songs was ‘Far From Me,’ about being raised near a junkyard in west suburban Maywood where ‘a broken bottle looks just like a diamond ring.’
“John Prine saw those things. He helped us understand those things.”
In his Chicago Sun-Times review of Mr. Prine’s 2014 concert at Symphony Center, Mark Guarino wrote: “His two-hour, 22-song performance was a homecoming, as they all are when the Maywood native returns to town. There have not been new songs for quite some time, but this tour did not need the special occasion. Instead, Prine showcased a repertoire of songs that is in its own class: bare but eloquent, comic but dark.”
During that concert, Mr. Prine even joked about the evolution of the venue that architectural icon Daniel Burnham built in 1904: “I don’t care what they call this place, it’ll always be Orchestra Hall to me.”
In 2018, Mr. Prine released “The Tree of Forgiveness,” his first album of original material since 2005. (He toured to support the disc, including a June 8, 2019, concert at Ravinia, where he had performed many times over his career.) The album’s closing song, “When I Get to Heaven,” displayed his characteristic grace and forbearance, as if he were composing his own epitaph: When I get to heaven, I’m gonna shake God’s hand/Thank him for more blessings than one man can stand.
Over here on E Street, we are crushed by the loss of John Prine. John and I were "New Dylans" together in the early 70s and he was never anything but the lovliest guy in the world. A true national treasure and a songwriter for the ages. We send our love and prayers to his family.
— Bruce Springsteen (@springsteen) April 8, 2020