Charlie Louvin, one half of the greatest country brother act of all time, has died after a long fight with pancreatic cancer, at 83. His brother Ira died in a car crash in 1965. Spine tingling Louvin classics like "When I Stop Dreaming," "Must You Throw Dirt In My Face" and the eerily beautiful murder ballad "Knoxville Girl" made the Louvin Brothers a powerful influence on younger artists like Gram Parsons, Keith Richards and Emmylou Harris. Charlie Louvin became a grandfather figure for a new generation of alt-country acts in recent years, recording a series of albums for the Tompkins Square label.
The Louvins' voices blended effortlessly, but they didn't always get along. "Jack Daniel's" was the culprit, Charlie told me in 2007, when he was touring for Charlie Louvin, which includes duets with George Jones, Elvis Costello and Jeff Tweedy. "I don't know how to handle a drunk. Still don't. I was the designated driver, way before they came up with that term. "
He had nothing but good things to say about his brother's musical talent, however. "He played the mandolin good, and was one of the greatest tenor singers ever. Bill Monroe used to say that there ain't but two tenor singers, and Ira Louvin's one of them. " Charlie Louvin also incudes "Ira," a song he wrote with Trent and Tim LeClaire. "I still hear you, off in the distance, your sweet harmony," he sang. "They'll never be another, because you can't beat family." "There aren't any lies in that song," Charlie said. "It's all true."
The Brothers' biggest hit is below, and "Ira" is below that. Charlie's the shorter one on the right with the guitar. Take a gander at the burning Beelzebub on the Louvin's famous album cover for Satan Is Real here.