SATAN IS REAL The Ballad of the Louvin Brothers By Charlie Louvin with Benjamin Whitmer
By Charlie Louvin’s own account, people who saw the Louvin Brothers perform were mystified by the experience. Ira Louvin was a full head taller than his younger brother, played the mandolin like Bill Monroe and sang in an impossibly high, tense, quivering tenor.
Charlie strummed a guitar, grinned like a vaudevillian and handled the bottom register. But every so often, in the middle of a song, some hidden signal flashed and the brothers switched places — with Ira swooping down from the heights, and Charlie angling upward — and even the most careful listeners would lose track of which man was carrying the lead.
This was more than close-harmony singing; each instance was an act of transubstantiation. “It baffled a lot of people,” Charlie Louvin explains in his crackling new memoir. “We could change in the middle of a word. Part of the reason we could do that was that we’d learned to have a good ear for other people’s voices when we sang Sacred Harp. But the other part is that we were brothers.”
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Times Topic: Country Music
Ira died in a car wreck in 1965. Charlie — who rolled his first cigarette at the age of 5 — died last year at 83, just two months after talking the book out. (The contributions of his co-author, Benjamin Whitmer, are pretty much invisible, which makes them difficult to praise, and all the more praiseworthy.) True to his subtitle, Charlie tells Ira’s story, as well as his own, devoting 47 chapters to their shared lives and careers, and just three more to the years that followed Ira’s death. He is profane, piquant and brutally honest in ways that are sure to offend the country music establishment but might have delighted Ira, who was no less of a demon than the ones the Louvins — who cut their teeth as a gospel duo, and never really left the church behind — so often sang about.
Charlie and Ira came up hard, on a tiny Depression-era cotton farm in southern Appalachia. Their mother taught them songs from the Sacred Harp hymnal, while their father worked and beat them, mercilessly, until they felt they had no choice but to sing their way off the land. “We were two determined little bastards,” Louvin recalls. “We were no good at quitting at all. Whether or not he meant to, I’d say that’s one of the greatest gifts Papa gave us.”
That gift (a great inspiration to the Everly Brothers, the Byrds and many other harmony singers who followed in their footsteps) carried the Louvins through two difficult decades — it took them years to make it, and just as they did, Elvis Presley came along and swept the music world they’d known aside. The ups and downs were bad for Ira, who’d gotten the worst of his father’s beatings and turned into a meanspirited, self-destructive drunk. But they’re good for the book, which is full of fistfights, road stories and behind-the-scenes looks at fellow travelers: Presley, Hank Williams, Roy Acuff, Johnny Cash, Little Jimmy Dickens and not a few others. In one chapter, titled “Duets,” Louvin recalls the Delmore, Monroe, Wilburn, Everly and Bolick brothers (the last performed as the Blue Sky Boys) — “duets that put out the most beautiful music you could imagine, but when they weren’t onstage, they wouldn’t speak to each other. And they wouldn’t speak to you, either, if you happened to like the other one.”
“Somehow,” he says, “Ira and I managed to remain some kind of friends.” If so, it was despite Ira’s own best efforts to ruin every relationship in sight. One night, drunk, he said a crude, racist thing, ensuring that Presley, who’d called the brothers “his favorite duet” and opened for Ira and Charlie on one of his first tours, would never record “The Christian Life,” “Satan Is Real,” or any other Louvin Brothers song. (“If I had to guess, I’d say that one statement by Ira cost the Louvin Brothers music catalog two or three million dollars,” Charlie says.)
On other nights, Ira smashed and stomped his mandolin to pieces (he’d later glue it back together), fought with drunks in the audience or simply failed to show up, costing the brothers top-tier bookings and getting them banned from their regular, hard-earned slot on the Grand Ole Opry. “It was an ugly thing when he drank,” Charlie recalls, “and there was no fun in it.”
And then there was the womanizing and spousal abuse. In February 1963, Ira Louvin wrapped a telephone cord around his wife’s neck. She shot him six times with a .22-caliber pistol, and when the police arrived on the scene she was said to have told them, “If the blankety-blank don’t die, I’ll shoot him again.” Ira lived, and Charlie stuck by him (and, amazingly, the wife) and ignored Ira’s threats to quit the duet. But the Louvin Brothers broke up that year.
Ira was traveling with a new wife (his fourth) and another couple on the night of his wreck. Atypically, according to Charlie, Ira — who had a D.U.I. warrant out for his arrest — seems to have been sober that night, while the driver of the car that hit him was “nine times over the legal limit for drunkenness.” Oddly, given his habit of smashing mandolins, Ira’s new mandolin — a four-stringed, electric instrument he’d designed himself — was “the only thing that wasn’t smashed to splinters.”
SATAN IS REAL
The Ballad of the Louvin Brothers
By Charlie Louvin with Benjamin Whitmer
Illustrated. 297 pp. Igniter/It Books/HarperCollins Publishers
BY Alex Abramovich who's writing a history of rock 'n roll
THE LOUVIN BROS - I CAN'T YOU IN LOVE WITH ME
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Selections recorded by the ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax that are included on a new album, “The Alan Lomax Collection From the American Folklife Center,” and will be part of the Global Jukebox, a huge online digital collection of traditional music dating to the 1930s.
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Last June, Glen Campbell (75) announced that he had Alzheimer’s disease, and on Saturday night Januari 7 2012 he came to Town Hall as part of what was billed as the “Goodbye Tour.” Everyone in the room understood. The faithful, reverent crowd appeared not to mind that for much of the show Glenn Campbell was reading lyrics from prompters that had been set between the monitors at the foot of the stage.
There will always be a Rhinestone Cowboy on his way to Phoenix,
IF I WERE ASKED TO ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTION: 'WHAT IS SLAVERY?' AND I SHOULD ANSWER IN ONE WORD, 'MURDER!' MY MEANING WOULD BE UNDERSTOOD AT ONCE. NO FURTHER ARGUMENT WOULD BE REQUIRED TO SHOW THAT THE POWER TO TAKE FROM A MAN HIS THOUGHT, HIS WILL, HIS PERSONALITY, IS A POWER OF LIFE AND DEATH, AND THAT TO ENSLAVE A MAN IS TO KILL HIM.
WHY, THEN, TO THIS OTHER QUESTION: 'WHAT IS PROPERTY?' MAY I NOT LIKEWISE ANSWER 'THEFT'?
Jerry Leiber, Prolific Writer of 1950s Hits, Dies at 78
Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber in 2008
By WILLIAM GRIMES
Published: August 22, 2011
Jerry Leiber, the lyricist who, with his partner, Mike Stoller, wrote some of the most enduring classics in the history of rock ’n’ roll, including “Hound Dog,” “Yakety Yak,” “Stand By Me” and “On Broadway,” died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 78.
. The cause was cardio-pulmonary failure, said Randy Poe, president of Leiber & Stoller Music Publishing.
The team of Leiber and Stoller was formed in 1950, when Mr. Leiber was still a student at Fairfax High in Los Angeles and Mr. Stoller, a fellow rhythm-and-blues fanatic, was a freshman at Los Angeles City College.
With Mr. Leiber contributing catchy, street-savvy lyrics and Mr. Stoller, a pianist, composing infectious, bluesy tunes, they set about writing songs with black singers and groups in mind.
In 1952, they wrote “Hound Dog” for the blues singer Big Mama Thornton. The song became an enormous hit for Elvis Presley in 1956 and made Leiber and Stoller the hottest songwriting team in rock ’n’ roll. They later wrote “Jailhouse Rock,” “Loving You,” “Don’t,” “Treat Me Nice,” “King Creole” and other songs for Presley, despite their loathing for his interpretation of “Hound Dog.”
In the late 1950s, having relocated to New York and taken their place among the constellation of talents associated with the Brill Building, they emerged as perhaps the most potent songwriting team in the genre.
Their hits for the Drifters remain some of the most admired songs in the rock ’n’ roll canon, notably “On Broadway,” written with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and “Stand By Me” with Ben E. King. With Phil Spector, Mr. Leiber wrote the Drifters hit “Spanish Harlem.”
They wrote a series of hits for the Coasters, including “Charlie Brown,” “Young Blood” with Doc Pomus, “Searchin’,” “Poison Ivy” and “Yakety Yak.”
“Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” a 1954 hit written for the Robins, became the title of a Broadway musical based on the Leiber and Stoller songbook. In 1987, the partners were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
from left Mike Stoller, Elvis and Jerry Leiber at MGM studios 1957
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With compelling stories unfolding against a stunning backdrop, Rio de Janeiro sets the perfect scene for many documentary filmmakers from around the world. Yet bringing a film to fruition here isn’t easy, and filmmakers must patiently – and sometimes dangerously – integrate themselves into the culture before cracking the window into the world of their subjects.
Movie poster for "Dancing with the Devil," a documentary focusing on the drug wars in the favela Coréia.
Only through a steadfast commitment to the story are some foreign filmmakers able to showcase perspectives that would otherwise be unseen by the masses, and amplify the voices of those who live them everyday.
One such film is the 2009 documentary “Dancing with the Devil,” which focuses on the drug wars unfolding in the Rio de Janeiro favela Coréia, as seen through the eyes of law enforcers, a pastor and the drug lords themselves.
For co-producer Tom Philips, the film was made possible through his relationship with Pastor Dione dos Santos, who worked closely with the favela’s drug traffickers.
Even with one contact directly intertwined in the story, earning enough trust to film in these environments and interview the subjects came at a slow pass. “It took us several years to gain the trust of our characters and to convince them to open their lives to our cameras,” Philips said.
Patricia Maresch of the Netherlands, who directed and produced “Cruzeiro,” a 2008 documentary about growing up in a favela agrees: “It’s not always easy to work here as a filmmaker … You can’t just fly in, film for two months, [and] then go back home.”
Maresch had to patiently win the faith of those involved in the film – not only from the main subjects, but from others in the community who saw the outsider with a camera. “People are afraid to be on camera,” she said, noting that many Brazilians are leery of how filmmakers will portray them. “They think ‘you’ll just show what bad people we are.’”
Movie poster for "Cruzeiro," a documentary covering the difficulties of growing up in Rio's favelas.
Even once the hard-won trust and access are granted, the filmmakers have plenty of obstacles to overcome to complete the documentary, sometimes including Rio’s notorious violence.
Maresch often had her filming put on hold during violent eruptions in the area. “There were weeks when we couldn’t do anything because of the shooting,” she said, noting that it was too dangerous for the film’s subjects to go outside.
Philips and the “Dancing with the Devil” team found themselves thrust into violent situations, too. With cameras rolling, they endured a bloody shootout between the drug squads and drug lords that left others around them dead.
Yet through the hardships of creating real-life films in Rio de Janeiro, the finished work often offers more than simply entertainment. Manydocumentaries can bring about social awareness and change.
“If a solution is to be found, these stories need to be told, even if that makes some people uncomfortable,” Philips said.
Filmmakers, like Marsech, are proud to share the lives of people who might not otherwise be noticed among the larger social issues. “We really tried to show what it was like (growing up in a favela),” she said. “It was their story to tell. I just helped them tell it.”