Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie Louvin, a star of the Grand Ole Opry
for more than a half century, died early Wednesday morning at his home in Wartrace, Tenn.
He was 83 and suffered from pancreatic cancer.
From the late 1940s through the early ’60s, Mr. Louvin and his brother Ira, performing as
The Louvin Brothers, revived country music’s emotional, full-throated harmony tradition.
They notched 10 top-20 Billboard country hits with classics such
as “When I Stop Dreaming,” “I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby” and “My Baby’s Gone,” part
of a body of work that would later inspire artists including Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss
and Dolly Parton. After the brothers disbanded, Mr. Louvin forged a solo career that
included 16 Billboard Top 40 country hits in the ’60s. And in the new century, he
rose yet again, receiving two Grammy nominations, playing the Bonnaroo festival and collaborating with
the rock-ready likes of Cake, Cheap Trick and Elvis Costello.
“I didn’t know what to expect, going on the road with Cake and Cheap Trick,” Mr. Louvin said
in 2007. “I imagined I might start singing and people would say, ‘Get that redneck (stuff) off
the stage, we came to hear rock.’ But it came out beautiful. It’s ironic that a man that’ll
be 80 this coming July would start his career over, but that’s kindly what I’ve done. The Good Lord
has blessed me with good health, and I love to sing. If I don’t get out and do it, it just means
I’m lazy. And God knows I’m not lazy.”
Mr. Louvin kept singing, kept recording and kept touring. Charlie Louvin was nominated
for a traditional folk Grammy, and Tompkins Square released a succession of Louvin records,
including a gospel set, an album of “murder ballads and disaster songs” and a live effort recorded
at a Parsons-inspired music festival. The live album was released while Mr. Louvin was undergoing cancer
treatment. He continued to play shows, and November 2010 brought The Battle Rages On, an album of
songs about war.
In December of 2010, Mr. Louvin made his final onstage appearances, taping Marty Stuart’s television
show on Dec. 2 and working East Nashville’s FooBar on Dec. 3. He collapsed during the Stuart taping,
but righted himself and carried on.
“In my world, you are worthless if you can’t continue,” he said. “Show business is all
I really know how to do. I would like for that to be the last thing I do.”
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