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John Prine's music 'will live on forever': Death mourned by Northern Ireland stars and performers around world

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John Prine has died after contracting coronavirus

John Prine has died after contracting coronavirus

AP

John Prine has died after contracting coronavirus

Daniel O'Donnell joined Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen in paying tribute after the coronavirus-related death of John Prine, the acclaimed American folk and country singer who was a regular visitor to Northern Ireland.

Other local musicians including Tommy Sands, Ben Glover and Anthony Toner also spoke of their admiration for Prine (73), who was married to Donegal woman Fiona Whelan and who lived for part of the year in Kinvara, Co Galway.

Prine was admitted to hospital in Nashville last month shortly after Fiona, from Ardara, tested positive for Covid-19. But while she recovered, her husband's condition deteriorated and he died yesterday.

The former Chicago postman, who was famous for his songs like Sam Stone and Angel from Montgomery, also penned I Want to Dance with You.

The latter was a massive hit for Daniel O'Donnell, who said Prine was one of the world's greatest singer-songwriters. "His music will live on forever," he added.

Bruce Springsteen said he was "crushed by the loss" of Prine, who he described as a "true national treasure and a songwriter for the ages".

Bob Dylan tweeted a simple message of appreciation: "Rest in Peace, John Prine. Thanks for everything.'

Demonstrating how Prine's work cut right across perceived musical boundaries, other tributes came from former Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant, who described him as a "beacon of clear white light cutting through the dark days'" while ex-Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler said: "His songs, full of humour, honesty and humanity will endure in our affection always."

Back home, Co Down singer Tommy Sands said Prine was "a songwriter of power and tenderness and a beautiful human being."

Singer Anthony Toner from Coleraine said Prine's death was like a personal loss, adding: "It feels like his songs were the glue that connected me to so many people."

Prine leaves behind fond memories for thousands of people in Northern Ireland of concerts that he played here from the 1990s. Among the venues he performed in were the Rialto cinema and the Millennium Forum in Londonderry; the Assembly Rooms, the Ulster Hall and the Waterfront in Belfast and the Strule Arts Centre in Omagh, which hosted his last concert here in August 2017.

In the 1990s he was a surprise guest on the Kelly Show on UTV and later declined offers to join the after-transmission party in the Europa Hotel, preferring to stay quietly in another hotel in the suburbs.

Prine regularly talked of his fondness for Ireland north and south and in the summer of 2016 he brought his sons to Belfast for an overnight stay "to explore the city and to eat fish".

One of his most memorable Irish gigs was in front of many of his wife's relatives in October 2000 in a packed Mount Errigal Hotel in Letterkenny.

He played repeated encores including an unrehearsed version of I Want to Dance with You, although he forgot some of the lyrics.

In November 2005 Prine played one of his smallest Irish concerts at the Town Hall in Galway.

Some of his friends from Kinvara were in the 400-strong audience to hear him in a formal setting, as opposed to the spontaneous music sessions in which he regularly participated in Mary Green's pub in the village.

He spoke that night of lock-ins in Kinvara pubs and he later contributed a song to a Christmas CD produced by a local school.

Last year Prine recorded a song in Nashville with Glenarm musician Ben Glover's band, The Orphan Brigade.

Glover said: "His songs and stories could help listeners understand life a little bit better. I am so grateful that we got to create a little bit of something with him."

A video of the song, Sorley Boy, which was filmed in Northern Ireland, featured an animation of Prine singing part of the track.

The same animator also featured Prine in a video to accompany the last song on his final studio album, Tree of Forgiveness.

The song, When I Get To Heaven, is about Prine's after-life priorities which would, he said, include "shaking God's hand in thanks for his blessings; forming a rock and roll band, having a cocktail and a nine-mile long cigarette and meeting up again with his family".

Prine won his first of four Grammy Awards in 1991, for The Missing Years, which bagged best contemporary folk album. It was a category he would top again in 2005 for Fair and Square.

Belfast Telegraph