Published Jan 26, 2011Country Music Hall of Fame member and bluegrass great Charlie Louvin passed away early this morning (January 26) after battling pancreatic cancer. The Houston Press points to a tweet from Nashville-based reporter Jimmy Carter, who explains that Louvin's wife Betty confirmed that the musician died around 1:30 a.m. Louvin was 83 years old.
The performer had been undergoing experimental treatment to remove the cancer. A gig late last year (December 15) at McGonigel's Mucky Duck in Houston, TX was cancelled due to surgery. Louvin had announced a winter tour in September that had to be postponed because of his health issues.
Louvin inspired a generations of country artists as part of the Louvin Brothers, which also featured his brother Ira. The pair began their career in the early 1940s, singing gospel songs in Chattanooga, TN, but made their way to Nashville by the time they started singing secular tunes in 1955. Together, the two helped define the close-harmony style of bluegrass singing. While they ended up in the Grand Ole Opry band, the duo's success was mired by Ira's troubled life. He'd later be killed in a car accident with a drunk driver in 1965.
While Louvin is likely best known for his 1964 hit "See the Big Man Cry," he continued to make an impact on the country music scene for decades on. His self-titled 2007 set featured duets with country music heavies George Jones and Tom T. Hall, as well as Elvis Costello and Wilco main man Jeff Tweedy. His final album was last year's The Battle Rages On.
Many musicians have taken on Louvin's tunes. The Byrds recorded a version of the Louvin Brothers' "The Christian Life" on their 1968 album Sweetheart of the Rodeo, while more contemporary covers included Willie Nelson's take on "Satan" for his 2010 disc Country Music. A tribute album, Livin', Lovin', Losin': The Songs of the Louvin Brothers, won a Grammy in 2004.