I told you in March that when this crazy pandemic was over, I planned to urge Secretary of State Jesse White to consider having Ebert’s and Prine’s names carved into the state library. A high-level official reached out to me later that day to say he would be up for it. Goodman should be on there, too. Let’s get this done.
To commemorate the life of Illinois native John Prine and celebrate his writing and musical contributions, Governor Pritzker has proclaimed Prine an Honorary Poet Laureate of the state. The legendary singer-song writer, who was born in Maywood, passed away on April 7, 2020 after contracting COVID-19. Prine is the first to receive such an honorary designation.
“I have no doubt that John would be proud and delighted to receive this recognition from his home state of Illinois,” said Fiona Whelan Prine, wife of John Prine. “Although he had moved to Nashville in the early 1980’s, he continued to visit Chicago, and Maywood in particular, to spend time with his family. John continued to follow Chicago sports teams and had never found a hot dog, pizza or Italian Beef sandwich to rival the originals. Watching John, as I did many times, play to an Illinois audience was always thrilling. A home boy delighting in the love and approval of his loyal fans - some of them family, longtime friends, old school buddies and neighbors.”
Whelan Prine added, “John had a great respect for Writers of all kinds. He regarded Poets as being among those whose work carried weight, relevance and elevated craft. It is such an honor for me, our sons, and the entire Prine family to acknowledge that our beloved John will be named an Honorary Poet Laureate of the State of Illinois. Thank you, Governor Pritzker, for this wonderful recognition.”
I remember everything, things I can’t forget
Swimin’ pools of butterflies would slip right through the net
And I remember every night, your ocean eyes of blue
I miss you in the morning light like roses miss the dew
*** UPDATE *** From Henry Haupt at the Illinois SoS…
We think this is a great idea. We are looking into this to see what steps are needed and what — if any — other agencies must be involved.
John Prine was my gateway drug to folk, country and Americana, and I’ve really never looked back, though I certainly still appreciate the punk of my youth and various forms of rock and roll. I’m in and will do whatever I can to help.
I’m in. I saw Prine several times — first time in the Quad Cities around 1990 with Arlo Guthrie.
Then in Ames, Iowa with the Cowboy Junkies.
Funniest, most entertaining musician I’ve ever seen I was walking through Nashville in September — pre-pandemic — and I knew Prine lived around there. I kept going into bars hoping maybe I’d see Prine — either drinking with his wife Fiona — or playing.
By the way, the Poet Laureate of the United States until recently taught at the University of Illinois, Urbana, but left due to the school and community being saturated with Native American stereotyped imagery.
As with Bob Dylan being given a Nobel Prize in Literature, why is Prine being given a “poet” laureate? Songwriter laureate, absolutely. But this need to appropriate literary awards for the supposed greater prestige of an artist in a different field does a disservice to those who are actually poets. And spare me the the whole his-lyrics-are-like-poetry. Apples and oranges. Which is not any insult to Prine who was superb at his distinct and separate art.