Charlie Louvin, one half of the country music duo the Louvin Brothers, has died due to complications from pancreatic cancer. He was 83. Read our 2007 interview with him here.
Louvin, born Charles Ezra Loudermilk in 1927, launched his music career in the early ’40s, alongside his brother Ira. The brothers helped invent the close-harmony singing style that came to define bluegrass music. They got their start in secular music in 1955, playing alongside Chet Atkins. They released dozens of albums, and had hit singles on the country charts with “I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby,” When I Stop Dreaming,” and “Crash On The Barrelhead.” The group dissolved in 1965 when Ira was killed in a car accident.
The Louvin’s music, particularly the 1959 album Satan Is Real, would come to be embraced by the rock and alt-country communities. Gram Parsons covered “Crash On The Barrelhead” on his seminal album Return Of The Grievous Angel, and The Byrds included their song “The Christian Life” on Sweethearts Of The Rodeo. Uncle Tupelo recorded powerful versions of the Louvins’ “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down” and “Atomic Power” on March 16-20, 1992.
In 2004, the Louvins were honored with the Grammy-winning tribute album Livin’, Lovin’, Losin’: Songs of the Louvin Brothers, which featured artists like Johnny Cash, Alison Krauss, Merle Haggard, and Dolly Parton.
Louvin remained active in touring and recording. In 2007, he hit the road with with Cheap Trick and Cake, and released a self-titled album featuring duets with Elvis Costello, Jeff Tweedy, and Marty Stuart. His last album was 2009’s critically-acclaimed The Battle Rages On.
“I had the honor and pleasure to be Charlie Louvin’s manager,” manager Brett Steele said today in a statement. “Some artist’s greatest contribution can be the influence they have over other artists and Charlie’s reach was immeasurable from The Beatles to Gram Parson. While The Louvin Brothers will be remembered as one of the greatest country duos in the history of country music Charlie’s solo career was just as successful and relevant. But his greatest legacy was Charlie Louvin the man, husband, father and friend. That outshines any of his musical contributions to our society. He will be greatly missed but never forgotten.”