Music News: Remembering John Prine

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Remembering singer-songwriter John Prine, and Hal Willner: a producer and 'Saturday Night Live' music supervisor. Apple Music has launched a fund to sustain indie labels, and Carole King sang one of her classics with friends. (MPR Video)

Revered singer-songwriter John Prine has died at age 73 due to COVID-19. When his wife and manager Fiona Whelan Prine recovered from the virus, fans held out hope that John Prine could shake the virus as well, but on Tuesday in Nashville he succumbed after several days of hospitalization.

The Illinois-bred artist was famously discovered by film critic Roger Ebert in 1970, and went on to become one of the most respected songwriters of his generation, earning fans around the world — including just about every fellow songwriter, especially those also working in the Americana genre. His songs combined crackling good humor with wistful heart and unassumingly inspired melodies, and he was covered by everyone from Bette Midler to R.E.M. to John Fogerty. His best-known song, "Angel from Montgomery," has been covered dozens of times, perhaps most famously by Bonnie Raitt.

On Twitter, singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith wrote of Prine, "I always saw him as a sort of Mark Twain figure. A humorist but mainly a humanist. He could make you laugh one moment and rip your heart open in the next." (The Current, New York Times, Billboard)

Producer and SNL music director Hal Willner dies at 64

Producer and longtime Saturday Night Live music supervisor Hal Willner has died at 64, from an undisclosed cause. Willner produced albums for artists including Marianne Faithfull and Lou Reed, and he played a crucial role in launching the career of Jeff Buckley. He had a knack for convincing big stars to participate in tribute projects on stage and on record; for example, he oversaw a recent T. Rex tribute album featuring contributions from artists including Nick Cave, Kesha, Father John Misty, Lucinda Williams, and Joan Jett. He was responsible for Stay Awake, a 1988 Disney tribute album that had Tom Waits singing "Heigh Ho" and the Replacements covering "Cruella De Ville." (Rolling Stone)

Apple Music launches $50 million fund to support indie labels

With music stores closed and streaming down during the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of smaller labels are on the ropes. To help sustain that crucial part of the music ecosystem, Apple Music has launched a $50 million fund to advance royalties to independent labels that need some cashflow during the crisis. In a statement, the service acknowledged that "livelihoods are at risk, with multiple sources of income that our industry relies on vanishing overnight." (Pitchfork)

A Beautiful singalong with Carole King

Now that the Hamilton cast have connected online, the cast of the musical Beautiful are getting into the act as well. In a clip released to raise money for members of the arts community feeling a financial pinch, cast members sing "You've Got a Friend" with the woman who wrote all the songs in the jukebox musical: Carole King. (Rolling Stone)


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