Before Caitlyn Jenner, Louisa Jo Killen, Folk Song and Shanty Singer

Louisa Jo Killen

Luisa Jo Killen

Not quite two years so, we posted about the death of the British folk and shanty singer who as born as Louis Killen.  The post title was “Lou Killen, British Folk Song and Shanty Singer, Dies at 79.”  Now after the Olympic gold-medalist Bruce Jenner has emerged as Caitlyn Jenner, I wonder where it would have been more respectful and appropriate to title the post, “Louisa Jo Killen….”  In the last years of his life Lou became Louisa Jo. I don’t usually go back and change posts, but in this case I have.

As we posted in 2013 : In 2010, at the age of 76, Killen surprised friends and fans alike when he began living openly as a woman, performing in women’s clothing and a wig. In 2012, he underwent a sex-change operation.  As noted in the New York TimesAdopting the name Louisa Jo Killen, she continued to perform for almost two years, by most accounts winning over most of Louis Killen’s fans and all of his friends.

For Lou Killen, a singer of sea songs and traditional folk music, to have come out as Louisa Jo Killen must have required considerable courage. It would have been understandable if she did not return to the stage, but she kept on singing. For that we owe both Lou and Luisa Jo a debt of gratitude.  Killen’s music lives on.

On January 18, 2014, musician friends of Killen’s got together to celebrate the life of the remarkable folk and shanty singer and to raise money for cancer research.  A video clip of the concert finale appears after the page break.

Louisa Jo Killen (aka Louis Killen) sings ‘The Bonny Bunch of Roses’

Louisa Jo Killen Concert Finale

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3 Responses to Before Caitlyn Jenner, Louisa Jo Killen, Folk Song and Shanty Singer

  1. Peter Neill says:

    Somewhere at South Street there exists still I hope the master disc for what I believe was Lou Killen’s first record of shantys and sea songs. Always wanted to re-issue. Still time, however long overdue.

  2. Irwin Bryan says:

    A very respectful handling of an awkward situation. Kudos!

  3. Jan Christensen says:

    Thanks for posting this, Rick. Louis/Louisa Jo was a friend whose life, music, and memory we cherish.