Charlie Louvin: 1927-2011

The Louvin Brothers

Charlie (left) and Ira Louvin

Before this weekend, I didn’t know about Charlie Louvin, or the Louvin Brothers. But I should have.

I have to give many thanks to WKCR (89.9 FM in NYC), the Columbia radio station, for preempting their regular programming on Saturday, Jan. 29, to celebrate the life and work of Charlie Louvin, who died on Jan. 26. WKCR filled six commercial-free hours with the sublime sounds of Charlie and his brother Ira, who died in a car accident back in 1965.

The Louvin Brothers are country legends. Their style of close harmony, as the sub-genre came to be known, with Charlie’s tenor as the bottom voice, and Ira’s amazingly high tenor as the top, was absolutely entrancing to me this Saturday, first in my car, then in my apartment. And Charlie’s guitar-playing and Ira’s mandolin-playing are excellent.

I should mention that Robert Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion, which I had watched for the first time a few days prior, really grabbed my ear and had it wanting to hear more American, country-tinged, Protestant church-inspired music. The scene where Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin sing “Goodbye to My Mama,” and the melody shifts, mid-song, to that of “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” was such a beautiful moment, that I cracked an old hymnal from my family’s Methodist church and flipped to “When I Survey” so I could play in on the piano.

I’m really glad I was introduced to the Louvin Brothers’ amazing repertoire of country gospel, and, later in their career, more pop-oriented songs, and I hope you enjoy it too.

(If WKCR ever gets their act together and posts archives online, I’ll be sure to update this post with a link.)

The Louvin Brothers, “The Family Who Prays”
The Louvin Brothers, “When I Stop Dreaming”
The Louvin Brothers, “Satan is Real”

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One Response to Charlie Louvin: 1927-2011

  1. Matt K says:

    Wow, what a great sound. “Satan is Real” should be featured in any and all film adaptations of Flannery O’Connor stories. Thanks for sharing.

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