arts / folk / music

August 13, 2013 – Remembering Louisa Jo (formerly Louis) Killen


Louisa Killen

(January 10, 1934 – August 9, 2013)

Louis Killen with Frankie Armstrong (1966)

Louis Killen with Frankie Armstrong (1966)

Davy Graham performing at the Troubadour with ...

Davy Graham performing at the Troubadour with Louis Killen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Louisa Jo Killen

Louisa Jo Killen

This elegant, middle-aged lady came up to where I was sitting, at a session of the Charles Parker day in Sunderland. (I can’t remember the exact date, and it’s not important.) “I’m Louis Killen,” she said. I laughed, not understanding what she was saying to me.

I was a bit embarrassed when I realised what she was saying to me, that my old bearded friend had changed gender, but she was unfazed by my brief unbelief, and we had a nice chat.

Though we emailed a little before she became (as it turned out) terminally ill, that brief encounter lies sweet and heavy on my heart.

Louisa’s influence extended far beyond the confines of the folk revival, though his influence among the younger singers who picked up the torch and carried it higher, upward and  onward, was and is inestimable.

When he performed in Woodstock at the time of Bob Dylan’s retirement following his motorcycle accident, Dylan crept in and sat, silent and unacknowledged, at the back of the hall, and spoke to him afterwards about his anxieties about the way so many were still following him, Dylan that is, out of traditional music into the electric world of rock’n’roll.

Louis was never seduced by such temptations. As a good Catholic, he acknowledged no earthbound Messiah.

After the death of another old friend from the earliest days of the folk revival, the banjo-playing atomic physicist, John Hasted, I wrote the following (here slightly amended) words, on March 27, 2002

When an old friend dies,
it’s a milestone,
a life fulfilled,
a moving on.

All our lives, all things considered,
end in failure.

And isn’t death itself the ultimate failure?
Don’t all revolutionary lives end in the counter-revolution of the grave?

Yet when an old friend dies,
we raise our glasses in a wine-red toast,

roll our fists into a knuckle-scabbed salute,
raise our voices in a hymn of victory.

A futile, doomed gob in the face of entropy.

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Louisa’s music

The Flying Cloud


YouTube playlist

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2 thoughts on “August 13, 2013 – Remembering Louisa Jo (formerly Louis) Killen

  1. Pingback: More on the ballad of the Flying Cloud | Karl Dallas Day

  2. Pingback: A new song: The Burka Ballad | Karl Dallas Day

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