Charlie Louvin was one of those great musical souls that you thought would live forever. As he began riding the tide of a remarkable career renaissance a few years ago with a string of fine indie Americana albums, the man was sharp as a sabre.
Most musical elders fear nothing from age if they have the health, confidence and artistic vision to maintain a lengthy career. When Louvin sailed into Lexington in 2007 to play a free noon time set at CD Central, he was fearless indeed. But he was more than that. In his late 70s at the time, the Country Music Hall of Famer was content. He sang decades-old country staples cut with sibling Ira as the Louvin Brothers, forgotten relics recorded under his own name in the ‘60s and ‘70s and newer works that reflected less of the sagely vibe you would expect from an artist of his years and more of a grandfatherly tone that was warm and welcoming but never falsely sentimental.
Louvin died yesterday from complications of pancreatic cancer. He was 83.
A living monument to country music done right, Louvin was an inspiration to multiple generations of artists, from The Everly Brothers to The Byrds to Uncle Tupelo to Lucinda Williams to Emmylou Harris. The list is massive.
As for recommended listening for anyone perhaps unfamiliar with his work, may we steer you to Satan is Real, a classic 1960 Louvin Brothers blast of spiritual country, and the best of Louvin’s comeback albums, 2008’s Charlie Louvin Sings Murder Ballads and Disaster Songs. Talk about a record where the title says it all.
But the memories of the numerous performances Louvin gave locally in recent years are what continue to bring the inspiration of a true country gentleman closer to home.
“There are still a few old boys like me around,” Louvin told me prior to a Dame concert in February 2009. “Mostly, we’re singing to grandchildren and great grandchildren of the people Ira and I played to 60 years ago. It’s a real thrill to be able to stay around that long.”