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Folk music legend John Prine named Illinois’ first honorary poet laureate

Folk music legend John Prine has been named Illinois’ first honorary poet laureate, nearly three months after the singer’s death due to complications related to COVID-19.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced the posthumous honour on Tuesday, the same month that Prine’s final recording I Remember Everything was released, reaching No. 1 in the Billboard charts.

John Prine poet laureate tribute
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Folk music legend and Illinois’ native John Prine named the state’s first honorary poet laureate three months after his death.

Governor J.B. Pritzker spoke of Prine’s legacy in the state, “John Prine leaves behind an unparalleled musical legacy and was beloved by family and millions of fans who hope that in Heaven he finds Paradise waitin’ just as he longed for.”

The honour of being named a poet laureate dates back to the 14th century, with Prine being the first to be named in the state of Illinois. Growing up in Maywood, Illinois, Prine became a staple of the Chicago folk scene before moving to Nashville.

Over his career, he received 12 Grammy Award nominations with his 1991 album The Missing Years, and 2005 album Fair & Square, taking out the award for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Earlier this year he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Prine’s widow, Fiona Wheland Prine, made a statement in recognition of the honour saying, “I have no doubt that John would be proud and delighted to receive this recognition in his home state of Illinois. Although he had moved to Nashville in the early eighties, he continues to visit Chicago, and Maywood in particular, to spend time with his family.”

Watching John, as I did many times, play to an Illinois audience was always thrilling,” she continued. “A home boy delighting in the love and approval of his loyal fans – some of them family, long-time friends, old school buddies and neighbours.”

In reference to her husband being named poet laureate, she 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.”