Country music legend Charlie Louvin dies

Wed Jan 26, 2011 1:52pm EST
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By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE (Reuters) - Influential country music great Charlie Louvin, who scored a string of hits with gospel-inspired inflections in his traditional singing style, died on Wednesday. He was 83.

A member of the Country Music Hall of Fame since 2001 and the Grand Ole Opry for half a century, Louvin died from pancreatic cancer at his home in Wartrace, Tennessee, near Nashville, according to his manager, Brett Steele.

The last of his roughly 20 albums over a career spanning seven decades was "The Battle Rages On," which was released in November and featured songs about war performed with other artists, including bluegrass legend Del McCoury.

Louvin and his older sibling, Ira, performed on radio and toured the mid-South as the Louvin Brothers in the 1940s. His website said the duo developed their distinctive close harmonies with a style called "shape note singing" that borrowed from Southern gospel sung in rural churches.

Charlie Louvin was a strong influence on such performers as Emmylou Harris and the late Gram Parsons, who covered the Louvin Brothers classic "The Christian Life" while with The Byrds.

Born in Henagar, Alabama, on July 7, 1927, Charlie Louvin worked in the fields of the family farm and listened to bluegrass records by the likes of the Delmore Brothers, the Monroe Brothers and the Blue Sky Boys.

The Louvin brothers' first commercial hit was the 1955 single "When I Stop Dreaming," the same year they toured with a young Elvis Presley.

The duo split in 1963 over personal differences, and Ira put out one solo album before dying in a car crash the following year.   Continued...