Singer and banjo player Ralph Stanley, the bluegrass pioneer who has been making records for more than 60 years, died yesterday. He was 89 years old. Stanley first started recording in the late 1940s, as the younger half of the Stanley Brothers. His brother Carter died in 1966. Starting in 1967, Ralph performed with his group the Clinch Mountain Boys – and in 2002, two years after receiving the Living Legend medal from the Library of Congress, Ralph Stanley finally recorded and released his first solo album. Today we’ll salute him by listening back to a conversation he had then with Terry Gross, in 2002.
If there’s a recording for which Ralph Stanley may be most famous, it’s his contribution to the Grammy-winning, platinum-selling soundtrack album of the Coen Brothers 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou? Stanley’s haunting solo performance won the Grammy that year for best male country vocal performance – and, like its title, it’s even more haunting to hear, sixteen years later, as part of his obituary. The name of the song is “O Death.”
Oozles are interesting things. They slide and they slump, they twist and they bump, they’re happy with whatever life brings. Just like us, they find love, even so high above, a small town in Tennessee.