John Prine, who died of COVID-19, named Honorary Illinois Poet Laureate by Gov. Pritzker

ByABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Wednesday, July 1, 2020
John Prine dead of coronavirus at 73, family says
Legendary Chicago singer-songwriter John Prine has lost his battle with COVID-19, according to his family.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Governor JB Pritzker honored Maywood-born singer-songwriter John Prine Tuesday by naming him the state's first Honorary Poet Laureate.

Prine died on April 7 from COVID-19.

The folk singer-songwriter learned to play guitar at the Old Town School of Music before being drafted into the Amy. He later delivered mail for the U.S. Postal Service and wrote songs on his route. He moved to Nashville in the early 1980s, but his music kept its roots in Chicago. Prine visited the city and Maywood often.

A popular performer in his own right, his songs were also recorded by other music legends including Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Bette Midler. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2019.

"I have no doubt that John would be proud and delighted to receive this recognition from his home state of Illinois," his widow Fiona Whelan Prine said. "John had 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."

Pritzker announced the honor while also announcing the formation of the 2020 Illinois Poet Laureate Search Committee. The position of State Poet Laureate has been vacant since 2017. Nominations will be accepted from July 1 through Aug. 15 by email or mail. All nominees must be current Illinois residents, have a publication history of poems and/or books, and also an established history of activity in the state's literary community.

Nominations can be emailed to or mailed to:

Illinois Poet Laureate Search Committee

c/o Office of the Governor

207 State House

Springfield, IL 62706

The video in this story is from a previous report