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Singer John Prine ‘critical’ in hospital from coronavirus symptoms

The singer, a part-time Gulfport resident, had been quarantined from his wife, who had tested positive.
John Prine last performed locally in 2019 at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater.
John Prine last performed locally in 2019 at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. [ Courtesy of Danny Clinch ]
Published Mar. 29, 2020|Updated Mar. 30, 2020

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Legendary singer-songwriter John Prine, a part-time Gulfport resident, is hospitalized in “critical” condition after suddenly developing symptoms consistent with the coronavirus.

The news, posted to his social media Sunday evening, said he’s been intubated and has been receiving care since Thursday.

“His situation is critical,” Prine’s family stated. “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.”

Earlier this month, Prine’s wife Fiona announced she had tested positive for COVID-19 and had isolated herself from her husband, who has a history of health issues. In the late ’90s, he had a tumor surgically removed from his neck. He again battled cancer in 2013, this time of the lung. And last year, he canceled a handful of tour dates after doctors advised him he was at risk of a stroke.

Fiona said in her posts that John’s tests had come back “indeterminate."

“There’s a chance he may not have this virus, and we are working really, really hard and being really diligent about all of the protocols," she said in her post. “So far, he’s fine. He’s always got a little something going on, but he’s 73 years old and he may have some issues, but he may not have this virus and I want to keep it that way.”

On Sunday, after sharing the news of her husband’s condition, she wrote: “I am scared and sad and I am hopeful.”

The news of Prine’s condition came hours after country singer Joe Diffie, 61, died from complications related to the coronavirus.

Related: Country star Joe Diffie, diagnosed with coronavirus, dies at 61

Discovered by Kris Kristofferson in the early 1970s, Prine was often compared to Bob Dylan for his evocative lyrics and storytelling. Several of his songs became hits for other artists, including Angel From Montgomery (Bonnie Raitt) and You Never Even Called Me By My Name (David Allan Coe).

Starting in the ’90s, Prine would vacation in Pinellas County, visiting friends to fish, until he finally broke down and bought a small bungalow near the water in Gulfport.

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“I never thought about buying a place,” Prine told the Tampa Bay Times in 2005. “We usually rent a house when we come here. But (Gulfport) is such a neat neighborhood.”

Prine’s music has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, with a generation of performers professing their respect for his songcraft. At recent concerts at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, he’s welcomed surprise guests like Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson. In 2018, The Tree of Forgiveness, his first new album in 13 years, debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard chart.

Last year he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and headlined his own music festival in the Dominican Republic. And in January, he received the Grammys’ Lifetime Achievement Award.

He last performed locally in December at Ruth Eckerd Hall, where he acknowledged numerous Tampa Bay friends shouting to him from the stage.

Related: Review: John Prine honors friends with heart, humor at Ruth Eckerd Hall

"Thanks for your yelps,” he told them. “You make me feel right at home.”

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