10 January 1934
Gateshead, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, England, United Kingdom
9 August 2013 (aged 79)
(10 January 1934 – 9 August 2013)
Louisa Jo Killen (né Louis Killen) was one of the most widely influential musicians of the folk revival and a key voice of English traditional song. She was a hard-core, unadulterated folksinger whose passionate delivery was matched by a deep and wide-ranging knowledge of the songs and the working people who made them.
Born and raised in the heart of the industrial North East of England, she came early to a love of folk music. Nurtured by a singing family whose tastes ran from liturgical music to cowboy songs, Irish ballads, grand opera, blues, jazz, classical and local Music Hall, the dominant music in her life has been the folk music of the British Isles. Killen's family background is predominantly Irish: her paternal great-grandfather brought the family from County Mayo to the banks of the River Tyne in 1852. Her grandfather married a Scotswoman and her father an Irishwoman.
Though her ancestry is largely Celtic, being a native Tynesider strongly affected her approach to music. Tyneside is an area that absorbs other cultures and converts them into its own - even after thirty-five years living in the USA, Killen's speaking accent still denoted her roots. The mixture of Irish, Scots and English living in the coal-mining and industrial region known to the ancients as Northumbria set it apart from the rest of England, pulling into it the musical traditions of all three countries while maintaining its own distinct musical style. Killen drew on all four traditions to bring a wide range of folk music to her audiences. To these four is added the Anglo-American tradition of deep-water shantying and sailor ballads common to both nations. Louisa Jo's first-hand experience working aboard brigs, brigantines, schooners and sloops in the late '60s and early '70s put her 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/CDs to her credit, Killen's influence as a performer, teacher and inspiration to others was unparalleled. Over forty recordings spanning most of the latter part of the 20th Century. Louisa Jo was a living folk legend.
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