We’re Still Louvin’ You, Charlie!
This morning, Charlie Louvin—one half of the classic country duo the Louvin Brothers—passed away at the age of 83.
Though the Brothers ended their musical partnership back in 1963, and Ira, Charlie’s hard-drinking older brother, died in a 1965 car crash, their music has never really gone away. The Louvins’ distinctive close harmony went on to influence not just country music, but rock and pop as well; pioneering alt-country acts including Gram Parsons and Uncle Tupelo would cover the Louvins’ songs; and both Charlie and Ira were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001. Still, despite the magnitude of the Louvins’ legacy, I can’t help but think that the requisite obituary list of accomplishments is somewhat inappropriate for a man that sang,
Never do good deeds for the praise of man
Giving gold that man might see
But in secret give, and in secret pray
He’ll reward you openly.
Better, then, to simply let Charlie speak with his own voice.
In the last few years, Charlie’s career experienced something of a revival; among the last songs he ever wrote was “Ira,” a tribute to his brother that frankly addresses his own inevitable death.
Alabama to the Opry was the second hardest road;
The worst was me losing you and singing all alone.
Your voice is strong,
Even though you’re gone
‘cause I still hear your part.
I know you’re up there singing with the angels;
One day soon,
I’ll sing with you and the angels;
With Charlie and Ira back together, those angels will be facing some stiff competition at choir practice. “If we were together today,” Charlie once said, “We could be the hottest group. That’s where the music is—the Louvin Brothers sound. Everybody is trying the Louvin sound.” Let the close harmony ring.
For more about the Louvin Brothers, read “High Lonesome Theology,” a classic from the KtB archives.
Garrett Baer is a graduate student in religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.