John Prine must’ve learned his work ethic early on: No matter what, keep on going.
That’s just what the legendary songwriter has done, going on through more than four decades of a starry career, recording a voluminous discography, collecting every conceivable award, fighting cancer (twice), and now landing on the stage of the Orpheum, where he’ll perform at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.
It’s not too surprising when you consider Prine started out as a mailman, where he apparently took the “come rain or shine” edict very much to heart. He started composing his own songs on the long routes, and before long the likes of critic Roger Ebert were proclaiming him a great songwriter.
Over the years, everyone seems to have agreed, which is something of an understatement when you look at just who has recorded songs from his songbook: Johnny Cash, Bonnie Raitt, the Everly Brothers, John Denver, Kris Kristofferson, Carly Simon, Ben Harper, and Joan Baez.
It was Kristofferson who more or less discovered him, famously threatening to break his fingers, Prine was so good.
Happily, that didn’t happen. What did happen was a treasure trove of hits, including “Illegal Smile,” “Angel from Montgomery,” “Paradise,” “Far From Me,” “The Great Compromise,” “Grandpa Was A Carpenter,” “The Hobo Song,” and many more.
His now-distinctive gravelly tone developed after a 1998 neck surgery to remove squamous cell cancer tissue, and after finding he had lung cancer in 2013, Prine seems to have fully recovered. He might have postponed some of his tour dates, but he never stopped, and now he shows no signs of slowing down.
And, while any songwriter would likely be happy to have just two or three of the Grammy-winner’s hits to her or his name, Prine seems to continue on with some other source of inner inspiration, something apart from fame and fortune.
He endures. Come rain or shine.