It is songs such as “Sam Stone” and “Hello in There” that have hallmarked two-time GRAMMY winner John Prine’s career. These are some of the first songs he performed and two of the many that led to his 2019 induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
John Prine started his songwriting career early and almost serendipitously. While he was playing three-chord folk songs, he would often forget the words and immediately improvise with ones that spurred in his mind. He took those simple chords and original verses and turned them into early songs such as “Paradise” or “Illegal Smile.”
After leaving his Chicago suburb for the city, he encountered a scene of folk revival in the early 70’s that brought in names like Kris Kristofferson, who ends up becoming the main promoter for Prine’s success. One late night at the Quiet Knight, Prine took a chance to perform seven songs for Kristofferson, who was immediately impressed and requested a second performance.
A few months later, Prine ends up in New York City. Kristofferson coincidentally is performing and he asks Prine to complete the set. Jerry Wexler spots him from the crowd and Prine lands a record deal overnight. Prine describes his whirlwind beginning to Billboard stating, “I like to tell young up-and-comers that luck has a good deal to do with it. Luck and timing. But when the luck and timing comes along, you’ve got to have the goods.”
Over the years he’s won a GRAMMY for 1991’s The Missing Years and The GRAMMY Hall of Fame inducted 1971’s John Prine in 2014. His most recent success is in his three-time GRAMMY nominated 2018 album, Tree of Forgiveness.
His own success comes from his brilliant lines and Americana tone. However, some of his most recognized songwriting skills have been passed onto the folk voices of the generation such as Johnny Cash (“Sam Stone”), Bette Midler (“Hello in There”) and Bonnie Raitt(“Angel from Montgomery”).
While he has been a recipient of the PEN New England Lyrics Award, awarded a spot in the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and nominated for three 2019 Libera Awards, this is his greatest recognition to date. The board praises him as one “one of English language’s premier phrase-turners.” For the 50th Annual Induction and Awards dinner, Prine was awarded alongside Missy Elliott, Tom T. Hall, Dallas Austin and Jack Tempchin & Yusuf / Cat Stevens.