Since 1971, John Prine's been blending, or, rather, muddling the lines between country and folk music. Sure, there might be a stylistic plane on which they might both exist, but no one has done it with more eloquence and chutzpah than Prine.
A native of Illinois, the singer/songwriter's giddy-up to the limelight included stints in the armed forces and as a carrier for the U.S. Postal Service before finding some quick fame alongside former writing partner Steve Goodman in Chicago's folk revival scene, thanks to the latter's introduction to Kris Kristofferson. From there, Prine's meteoric rise has been bookmarked by sound-altering bouts of cancer made even more poignant by Goodman's passing in 1984 of leukemia at age 36.
Undeterred by that and other life challenges, Prine's work has always been noted for its humor and subtle observations of the human condition.
Born in 1946, Prine is first and foremost a performing artist, starting in the early '70s following a string of early, critically acclaimed albums on Atlantic and Asylum records. His compositions have been covered by legends like David Allan Coe, Bonnie Raitt, and Susan Tedeschi. A musician's musician, Prine's never been a household name outside of genre circles, but he's revered by musicians and connoisseurs alike. His narrative approach to storytelling through music is equal to fiction writing in his assuming of the subject's persona and a heartfelt rendition of that subject's story. His work often expertly deals with current events and social commentary under the guise of love and life and the gloomier moments of his personal mythology.
In 1998, he was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer in his neck. Surgery to remove diseased tissue as well as a battery of radiation therapy resulted in the gravelly tone he sings with nowadays. In fall 2013, Prine underwent surgery for lung cancer that was unrelated to the squamous cell cancer and was detected early enough. With friend Goodman succumbing to cancer at an early age and with his own battles, one would think that Prine's cheery disposition would suffer, but that couldn't be further from the truth. The same humorous approach that made him who he is keeps him going. And now in his fourth decade as a performer, Prine's as delightful and entertaining as ever.
John Prine. 8 p.m. Thursday, January 15, at Parker Playhouse, 707 NE Eighth St., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $55 to $80 plus fees. Call 954-462-0222, or visit parkerplayhouse.org.
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