John Prine Named Illinois’ First Honorary Poet Laureate
John Prine has been named an honorary poet laureate in his home state of Illinois. He's the first person to earn the title.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced Prine as an Illinois poet laureate on Tuesday (June 30), via Twitter. The state is currently searching for its next poet laureate, but is honoring the late folk icon after his death in April.
"John Prine leaves behind an unparalleled musical legacy," Gov. Pritzker writes, "and was beloved by family and millions of fans who hope that in Heaven he finds Paradise waitin’ just as he longed for.”
While he often mentioned his parents' home of Muhlenberg County, Ky., in his songs, Prine was born in Maywood, Ill., a Chicago suburb, in 1946. As a child, the singer-songwriter attended Chicago's lauded Old Town School of Folk Music; after briefly serving in the military, Prine began his music career by performing at open mic nights in the city.
It was in Chicago that Kris Kristofferson first saw Prine perform: the catalyst for both their friendship and the rise of Prine's career, along with an early review from iconic film critic Roger Ebert.
“I have no doubt that John would be proud and delighted to receive this recognition from his home state of Illinois,” says Fiona Prine, John Prine's widow, in a statement (quote via Consequence of Sound). “John had great respect for writers of all kinds. He regarded poets as being among those whose work carried weight, relevance and elevated craft."
Prine died on April 7, at the age of 73, of the novel coronavirus. In addition to his wife, Prine is survived by three sons, Jody, Jack and Tommy, and grandchildren, along with a legion of adoring fans and beloved friends. Numerous artists paid tribute to him in their own ways following his death, and while the family was unable to have a traditional memorial service or funeral due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they have found small ways to honor his memory.
The Prine family recently shared his final recorded song, "I Remember Everything," which earned the legend the top spot on the Rock Digital Song Sales chart -- his first-ever Billboard No. 1. The song is part of a batch of new, unreleased music that Fiona Prine recently revealed he was working on before his death. More never-before-heard tracks will be released in the future, she says, noting, "John left me a lot — a lot of memories, music, cars."
13 John Prine Lyrics That Prove He Wrote Like No One Else: