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Remembering Bluegrass Singer Ralph Stanley

Ralph Stanley performs at the Stagecoach Country Music Festival in 2012.
Ralph Stanley performs at the Stagecoach Country Music Festival in 2012.

A distinct American voice is gone. The bluegrass and old-time singer Ralph Stanley died Thursday at age 89. He lived a rich, full life of music; singing with his brother Carter as The Stanley Brothers, he helped define the bluegrass sound from the 1940s onward. After Carter Stanley died in 1966, Ralph continued playing with The Clinch Mountain Boys.

Around the time of this World Cafeinterview in 2002, Stanley got the mainstream acclaim he deserved as a result of his singing in the film O Brother, Where Art Thou?. In this session from our archives, Stanley joins us to talk about his long career, and we hear some of his magnificent music — including "O Death," the song that won him the Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 2002.

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