A Very Special Screening on my Third Day at the Nashville Film Festival:
Charlie Louvin: Still Rattlin’ the Devil’s Cage
Wow. Charlie Louvin was a legendary country music artist who passed away not long ago at the age of 84. He left a legacy of music and enduring life lessons, illustrated wonderfully by filmmakers Blake Judd and Keith Neltner and crew. This was the Tennessee Premiere of the film, and my film festival mates and I sat in the second row, surprisingly, right behind Charlie’s family – his wife Betty, son Sonny and grandson, among others. A powerful place and context for viewing this man’s past on the big screen.
Charlie’s professional music career started alongside his brother Ira, and in the 1950’s/early 1960’s, the Louvin Brothers wrote, recorded, toured and developed fame and a following for their “blood harmonies” and songs. Charlie and Ira had split up when Ira was killed in a car accident in 1965. Incredibly, Charlie toured infrequently for almost 40 years until 2008 when he did 200 shows in two years; only stopping when pancreatic cancer forced him to stop. His last show was held December 3rd, 2010 in Nashville. The following day, the filmmakers interviewed Charlie for this documentary. In addition to the poignant interview footage with Charlie, the filmmakers also spoke with Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, John McCrea of Cake, George Jones and Marty Stuart and utilized archive video, photos, documents and a wide assortment of music from the catalog.
Following the showing of this film there was a panel discussion with Blake and Keith, Rodney Crowell, Jim Lauderdale and Bret Steele (Charlie’s manager at the end of his career), moderated by Peter Cooper. They talked about how meaningful the songs of Charlie Louvin and the Louvin Brothers were to them and what it meant to know Charlie and his incredible talent, character, and work ethic.
I was fortunate (probably because I was in the second row) to be the first audience member to ask a question of the panel and I addressed it to them all, asking what their favorite Charlie Louvin/Louvin Brothers song was and why it was special to them. I noticed that a writer for theBoot.com must have been in the room and reported Rodney’s and Jim’s answers to my question in a story about the documentary screening. Check it out at http://www.theboot.com/2012/04/23/charlie-louvin-documentary/
Experiencing this screening, in the company of the filmmakers, the selfless panel and Charlie’s family, was something I will never forget. I highly recommend you visit www.louvinfilm.com for more information. It’s well worth the time.
Photo credit: Susan Raftice