(January 10, 1934 – August 9, 2013)
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,
All our lives, all things considered,
Yet when an old friend dies,
A futile, doomed gob in the face of entropy.
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The Flying Cloud
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