President Michael D Higgins pays tribute to Grammy-winning singer John Prine

‘He always used local musicians as support acts for his concerts in Ireland’

 John Prine in June 2019 performing at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee. Photograph:  Amy Harris/Invision/AP

John Prine in June 2019 performing at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee. Photograph: Amy Harris/Invision/AP

 

President Michael D Higgins has paid tribute to the Grammy-winning singer John Prine who died earlier this week after being hospitalised suffering from symptoms of coronavirus.

The US folk singer, who became one of the most influential songwriters of his generation, died in Nashville on Tuesday. He was 73.

President Higgins said it was with great sadness he learned of Prine’s death describing him as a great friend of Ireland.

“John Prine was a true master of songcraft. A gifted and evocative lyricist, he was the songwriter other songwriters looked to for inspiration. He was a voice of tolerance, inclusion, whimsy, and protest.

“John’s songs are marked by a sensitivity and social conscience and capture the experience of those on the margins in societies, who have suffered broken dreams, broken homes, and broken hearts. His songs were profound and soulful, often sorrow-tinged, but ultimately affirming and wrapped in a distinctively mischievous humour,” he said.

Deep impression

The president said Prine left a very deep impression on the people of the West of Ireland. “A regular feature of and beloved presence in Galway, his songs brought a troupe of captivating characters with him and set them free in small packed rooms in Kinvara, Headford and Galway City.

“He had a great love for the Irish landscape, especially the Burren and Flaggy Shore, as well as for the Irish people with whom he felt a great freedom. He was held in deep affection and warmth in particular in the village of Kinvara, where he had a home, and where his sessions in Greene’s were legendary.

“Despite being one of Johnny Cash’s ‘big four’ he was marked by a great humility. He always used local musicians as support acts for his concerts in Ireland, and collaborated with renowned Irish musicians, such as Dolores Keane, Paul Brady, Declan O’Rourke, Arty McGlynn, and most particularly before his passing, ‘the Clontarf cowboy’ Philip Donnelly. It was fitting that he was the last act to play a concert in Seapoint as a venue before it was converted to a bingo hall,” he added.

Prine was married to Irish woman Fiona Whelan.

Virus

Earlier this week she said in a statement: “We have no words to describe the grief our family is experiencing at this time. John was the love of my life and adored by our sons Jody, Jack and Tommy, daughter in law Fanny, and by our grandchildren.

“John contracted Covid-19 and in spite of the incredible skill and care of his medical team at Vanderbilt (Medical Centre in Nashville) he could not overcome the damage this virus inflicted on his body.

“I sat with John - who was deeply sedated in the hours before he passed and will be forever grateful for that opportunity.

“My dearest wish is that people of all ages take this virus seriously and follow guidelines set by the CDC. We send our condolences and love to the thousands of other American families who are grieving the loss of loved ones at this time - and to so many other families across the world”.

Bruce Springsteen also paid tribute to Prine tweeting that he was “crushed” by his death.

“John and I were ‘New Dylans’ together in the early 70s and he was never anything but the loveliest guy in the world. A true national treasure and a songwriter for the ages. We send our love and prayers to his family.”