John Prine is in stable condition after being hospitalized with symptoms of the novel coronavirus last week — though the musician’s family cautioned that does not mean he is improving.
On Monday, the singer-songwriter’s wife of 23 years, Fiona Whelan Prine, gave an update about her husband’s condition on Twitter, writing that she has also “recovered from COVID-19” following her own diagnosis earlier this month.
“We are humbled by the outpouring of love for me and John and our precious family,” Fiona, 73, wrote. “He is [stable]. Please continue to send your amazing love and prayers. Sing his songs. Stay home and wash hands. John loves you. I love you.”
A few hours later, she followed up with a second Tweet elucidating on the first. “I need to clarify what I mean by ‘John is stable.’ That is not the same as improving. There is no cure for COVID-19. He needs our prayers and love — as do the thousands of others who are critically ill. Stay at home. Wash your hands. We love you.”
The 73-year-old musician was hospitalized on Thursday “after a sudden onset of COVID-19 symptoms,” according to a message posted by the Prine family to his official social media accounts.
“He was intubated Saturday evening, and continues to receive care, but his situation is critical,” the message reads. “This is hard news for us to share. But so many of you have loved and supported John over the years, we wanted to let you know, and give you the chance to send on more of that love and support now. And know that we love you, and John loves you.”
Prine began his recording career with his self-titled 1971 debut album, which included several songs now considered classics of country-folk, including “Sam Stone,” about a Vietnam veteran addicted to heroin (“There’s a hole in Daddy’s arm where all the money goes”); “Hello in There,” which lamented the loneliness of aging; “Paradise,” inspired by his father’s stories of the devastation caused by coal strip-mining in his home town; and the anti-war song “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore;” along with “Angel from Montgomery.”
Over the years, the Kentucky native has won four Grammy awards and has counted Bob Dylan among his fans. In 2009, Dylan said in a 2009 interview with the Huffington Post, “Prine’s stuff is pure Proustian existentialism. Midwestern mind trips to the ninth degree.”
In recent years, Prine survived cancer twice. In 1998, he had surgery and radiation to fight squamous cell cancer that was found on his neck, and he underwent a year of speech therapy before he could perform again, with a more gravelly voice.
“I think it improved my voice, if anything,” he told NPR in 2019. “I always had a hard time listening to my singing before my surgery.”
In 2013, he survived lung cancer, regaining his strength by running up and down the stairs of his house and then picking up his guitar to sing a song. He released his last album, The Tree of Forgiveness, in 2018.
At January’s Grammys, Prine was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Bonnie Raitt sang his 1971 ballad “Angel from Montgomery” — one of her signature concert songs — onstage.
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