Charlie Louvin was never one to shy away from spiritual concerns. The Louvin Brothers’ best-known album, Satan Is Real, was released in 1959, and half a century later, Charlie released Ships to Heaven. Now those spiritual matters take on a new resonance, as Louvin died on Wednesday, January 26, of pancreatic cancer.
Louvin, born Charles Elzer Loudermilk, and his brother Ira, became popular country & western and gospel artists in the 1950s. Ira, an alcoholic, was himself killed by a drunk driver in 1965. After Ira’s death, Charlie struggled through the next decade as a solo artist. From 1982 until 2007, he did not release any new recordings. But as a couple generations of Americana artists discovered the Louvin Brothers and were influenced by their close harmonies, Charlie became something of a living legend. In 2001, the Louvin Brothers were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Charlie’s self-titled 2007 comeback album featured contributions from George Jones, Jeff Tweedy, and Will Oldham.
Inspired by that album’s success, Louvin at age 80 began performing and recording music continually, releasing a live album and three further studio efforts. The last of these was The Battles Rage On, released in November 2010. Here are a few selections from Louvin’s vast, and vastly influential, body of work.