John Prine's Billboard Chart History, From Self-Titled Debut to 'Tree of Forgiveness'

John Prine
Danny Clinch

John Prine

For nearly a half-century, John Prine's catalog made a marked impact on the Billboard 200, where the singer-songwriter, who died Tuesday (April 7) at age 73, first charted in 1972.

That's when his debut self-titled album, released a year earlier, bowed at No. 156, on the chart dated Feb. 26, 1972. A week later, the LP, which features such Prine classics as "Angel From Montgomery" and "Sam Stone," peaked two spots higher, at No. 154.

Still, the seeds were sown for Prine's lengthy history on the Billboard 200, one that includes 15 entries, nearly half of which charted in the '70s. Prine was nominated for best new artist at the 1973 Grammy Awards, and Common Sense became his first full-length to peak within the Billboard 200's upper half, reaching No. 66 in May 1975.

After six albums in the '70s, Prine released three in the '80s and four in the '90s (including a holiday LP) and, beginning with 1974's Aimless Love, his output was often released independently via his own Oh Boy Records.

In 2005, with Fair & Square, which won for best contemporary folk album at the Grammys the next year, Prine finally exceeded Common Sense's Billboard 200 peak, bowing and peaking at No. 55. It also marked his first time in the Billboard 200's top 100 since Common Sense nearly 30 years earlier.

From there, each Prine album that reached the Billboard 200 peaked inside the top 100. For Better, Or Worse brought the first top 40 visit for the troubadour, hitting No. 30 in October 2016. With his most recent release, The Tree of Forgiveness, Prine earned his first top 20, top 10 and top five placement, as the album debuted and peaked at No. 5 in April 2018.

Beginning in the late '90s, Prine also began reaching the Top Country Albums chart, earning a pair of No. 2-peaking titles (For Better, Or Worse and The Tree of Forgiveness), and upon the creation of the Americana/Folk Albums tally in 2009, he racked up four top five entries, including two No. 1s (In Person & On Stage and The Tree of Forgiveness). On the Top Rock Albums chart, he reached No. 2 with The Tree of Forgiveness.

While he hasn't yet made a Billboard songs chart on his own, covers of Prine's material have appeared, including Zac Brown Band's version of "All the Best," which hit No. 19 on the Country Digital Song Sales tally in May 2017.

To date, Prine's catalog has been streamed 257.5 million times in the U.S., and he's earned 3.6 million equivalent album units, largely via album sales, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data.

Prine died of complications from COVID-19. His wife Fiona also tested positive for the virus on March 19, and Prine himself was hospitalized with symptoms on March 26.

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