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The veteran singer and concertina player, who had undergone transgender surgery and was known as Louisa Jo Killen, died on August 9th. Louis recorded for Topic Records during the 1960’s and had toured for a time with The Clancy’s and Tommy Makem in the USA. He relocated to America for a larger part of his life and was known there as singer of traditional and maritime songs.

Born in the industrial North East of England into Irish immigrant family, his paternal great–grandfather brought his family from County Mayo to the banks of the River Tyne in 1852. His grandfather married a Scotswoman and his father an Irishwoman. Killen had a wide repertoire of ballads, one of the best–known was the Black Leg Miner. The TV watcher might have noticed his track, Ship In Distress which was used as soundtrack for a Toast video last year.

Whilst in America he developed his love of maritime music becoming intrigued by the Anglo–American tradition of deep– water shantying and sailor ballads common to both nations. This greatly influences the singing of Liam Clancy, including the use of the concertina as an accompanying instrument. Louis’s first–hand experience working aboard brigs, brigantines, schooners and sloops in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s put him in the forefront of the current revival of maritime music on both sides of the Atlantic.

In a career spanning over forty years, with more than thirty–five albums/CD’s to his credit, Louis Killen’s influence as a performer, teacher and inspiration to others was unparalleled.

Permalink - Posted: August 30, 2013 at 11:19 am