John Prine, born in Maywood, Illinois has been active as a recording artist and live performer since the early 1970s.
His brother David taught John how to play guitar when John was 14. For five years He was a mailman and also served in the Army before beginning his musical career in Chicago. In the late 1960s, he delivered mail during the day, and in the evening, sang at open-mic evenings at the Fifth Peg on Armitage Avenue. Prine was initially a spectator, reluctant to perform, but eventually did so in response to a "You think you can do better?" comment made to him by another performer.
Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert heard him there and wrote the first review Prine ever received, calling him a great songwriter. He became a central figure in the Chicago Folk Revival, performing frequently at such clubs as the Earl of Old Town, the Quiet Knight, Somebody Else's Troubles and the Bulls before being "discovered" by Kris Kristofferson.
In 1971 Prine's self-titled debut album was released. The album included his signature songs "Illegal Smile," "Sam Stone," and the folk and country standards "Angel from Montgomery" and "Paradise."
The album also included "Hello In There," a song about aging that was later covered by numerous artists and "Far From Me," a lonely waltz about lost love for a waitress that Prine later said was his favorite of all his songs. The album received many positive reviews, and some hailed Prine as "the next Bob Dylan." Dylan himself appeared unannounced at one of Prine's first New York City club appearances, anonymously backing him on harmonica.
Prine's second album, Diamonds In The Rough, was a surprise for many after the critical success of his first LP; it was an uncommercial, stripped-down affair that reflected Prine's fondness for bluegrass music.
Later albums include Sweet Revenge, containing such fan favorites as "Dear Abby," "Grandpa Was A Carpenter," and "Christmas In Prison", and Common Sense (1975), with "Come Back to Us Barbara Lewis Hare Krishna Beauregard." The latter album was Prine's first to be charted in the US Top 100 by Billboard.
Prine continued writing and recording albums and formed his own record label, Oh Boy Records in the 1980s. His songs continued to be covered by other artists.
In 1991, Prine released the Grammy Award-winning The Missing Years, his first collaboration with producer and Heartbreakers bassist Howie Epstein. The title song records Prine's humorous take on what Jesus did in the unrecorded years between his childhood and ministry.
In early 1998, Prine was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer on the right side of his neck. He had surgery to remove the diseased tissue and was left with a substantial loss of tissue.
In 2003, he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award for songwriting by the UK's BBC Radio 2 and that same year was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
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