John Prine's major-label career began nearly 50 years ago, and yet, his best years still seemed to be ahead of him. That's part of the reason his death on Tuesday (April 7), from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), feels especially painful — that, and because the 73-year-old singer-songwriter could weave a tale as few could.

Born and raised in Illinois, Prine came up in the Chicago folk scene, working as a mailman and playing open mic nights in his free time. After signing a record deal, he released his debut album in 1971. Featuring "Sam Stone," the heart-wrenching tale of a drug-addicted veteran; the wise-beyond-Prine's-years "Hello in There;" and the classic "Angel From Montgomery," among others, the project is one of music's finest debut albums, period.

In more recent years, Prine beat cancer twice and became a friend and collaborator to many artists in country and folk's new generation. Thanks to that influence, and his superb 2018 album The Tree of Forgiveness, Prine was recently experiencing a career resurgence: He was a fixture at the Americana Honors & Awards and AmericanaFest, was nominated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (though not chosen for induction), was named to the Songwriters Hall of Fame and was lauded as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner.

Prine's gripping, honest and slightly quirky songwriting comes from a man who lived an incredible life. Keep reading to learn a bit more about the icon.

10 Things You Didn't Know About John Prine: