John King started “Louisville is for Lovers” in 2001.

Since 2001, Louisville musician John King has set out to prove Louisville is for lovers by assembling an album of love songs by local bands and artists.

Now in its 17th year, “Louisville is for Lovers” is stronger than ever, and King has been working hard to restore and reissue past compilations.

The goal is for all to be available both digitally and physically for the 20th anniversary in 2021. Volumes 1 through 5 currently are available.

For this piece, however, we’ll focus on the newest one, titled “Darlin Beloved: Louisville is for Lovers 2018,” which will be released on Friday, Feb. 2. The album features 22 exclusive tracks by Louisville artists including Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Brenda, Frederick the Younger, Bon Air, Lacey Guthrie, Jaye Jayle and many others.

Also, the deluxe edition includes a separate EP of duets that includes two songs by Shadowpop and two “interesting” covers: the Reba/Linda Davis original “Does He Love You” sung by Bonnie “Prince” Billy and King, and the Prince-penned Sinead O’Connor hit “Nothing Compares 2 U” covered by Lacey Guthrie and King.

“Darlin Beloved” comes out Friday, Feb. 2.

The album will be available at Better Days Records, Guestroom Records and Matt Anthony Records, as well as online.

King tells Insider that while the annual project can be time-consuming and tedious, it gets easier each year.

“I learn something new every year, and over the years I have been lucky enough work with some amazing people,” he says. “‘Louisville is for Lovers’ truly is a labor of love, but with nearly no budget to speak of, it really is the gracious support of the community that gets the album out every year on time looking and sounding great.”

He believes it resonates with people because it pleases both those who make music and those who consume it.

“There is something to be said about feeling like you belong to a community,” says King. “Whether you are a music lover or a proud Louisvillian who picks up a copy every Valentine’s Day or a musician who gets to share your craft with your city, it gives us something to look forward to and to come together in these chilly winter months to celebrate both love and Louisville.”

Asked if he believes Louisville really is for lovers, King laughs and says, “I sure well hope so — I spent my entire adulthood working on the idea that it is.”

A man and his cat | Courtesy of John King

He’s encouraged each year by the number of people who come out to the shows, who buy the albums, and even by the various positive Louisville murals that have sprung up in neighborhoods throughout the years.

“The term ‘Louisville is for Lovers’ has always felt much like the U.S. Constitution to me,” explains King. “We don’t have the Constitution because the rights and freedoms within are inherent, but because we have made a declaration and commitment to work toward making those rights and freedoms a reality. A loving and inclusive Louisville is something we must constantly work to keep alive.”

Coinciding with the “Louisville is for Lovers” launch are a few events. First up is a free in-store performance by Frederick the Younger and Brenda at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 2, at Guestroom Records, 1806 Frankfort Ave.

After that, King and the Winger Brothers will be featured on WFPK’s “Live Lunch” at noon on Friday, Feb. 9.

And finally, the full “Louisville is for Lovers” Valentine’s concert will be held Saturday, Feb. 10, at 6 p.m. at the Louisville Free Public Library, 301 York St. Admission is free for this as well.

We caught up with King before all the Louisville lovin’ begins to ask him some very important questions. He had a lot to say about a lot of things …

What’s the most surprising thing on your Bucket List?

Can we do these out of order? I’d hate for my first answer to be a preachy bummer, but I don’t know if Bucket Lists are something everyone can reasonably have. I have done a lot in my life, and consider myself lucky and thankful, but I think there are many things some people take for granted (like visiting other countries, vacations at the beach, buying a new car, etc.) that are 100 percent impossibilities for some.

The things that keep me up at night, the things I panic about never having, are things like owning a home, being financially secure, getting a job that allows me to reach my full potential. That’s why I’d say the biggest goal I have to reach before I kick the bucket is to help in any way I can to bring equality and stability to everyone in this country of ours. After all, it is all of ours, despite what some people may think.

What poster was on your wall in junior high?

“Unzipped” by Julius Friedman

I had a print of the Speed Art Museum’s poster of the unzipped dress by Julius Friedman in my room. My cousin Chea and I would take the bus on free-entry Tuesdays from Germantown to the Speed and spend hours there.

My dad was friends with Julius, and I always admired my dad’s artist friends, so maybe that was the justification for getting it. But, in all honesty, I was just coming to terms with my sexuality and finally becoming comfortable with something that is embarrassing for middle-school kids to talk about.

So, the slight sexual nature of the image was probably the real main motivator for hanging it up, but whatever it takes to get the kids interested in art, right?

My mother clearly had not taken that stance, though, and one day when I came home, the poster was gone and in its place were several framed family photos. That is the last thing a middle-school kid wants hanging up in his room.

I was so embarrassed when I had friends over!

If you were mayor, to whom would you give the key to the city?

Referring back to my preachy answer on Question 1, I think it’s the hardest-working people in Louisville who finally deserve some thanks.

The folks who work for hours making sure this city runs efficiently while trying to make ends meet on $9 an hour with no job security, no savings, no assets, and a local government that actively seeks to exploit them with unfair minimum-wage laws, no safety nets for gentrification, and an incentive program for real estate developers and outside interests that push the working class into inhuman conditions.

What are your preferred pizza toppings?

Papalino’s had a diced prosciutto that was so good! I’d never seen prosciutto prepared like that before. It was like little drops of heaven on your tongue. Now that I’m thinking about it, it reminds me of the line in “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle” when the Burger Shack employee starts thinking about the grilled onions on White Castle burgers and says:

Just thinking about those tender little White Castle burgers with those little, itty-bitty grilled onions that just explode in your mouth like flavor crystals every time you bite into one … just makes me want to burn this motherfucker down. Come on, Pookie! Let’s burn this motherfucker down!

If you could be any age for a week, what would it be?

If I could be any age, I think I would like to be the age I am right now. Forty isn’t a bad age, I don’t think, and there isn’t any reason to go backward; I already know what it’s like to be younger than 40, and if I play my cards right, I’ll one day get to know what it’s like to be well over 40, so today I’ll see what it’s like being 40 1/2 and 3/5ths.

What famous person do people say you resemble the most?

I don’t know about famous, but (DJ) Matt Anthony called me one day and had me stop by his wonderful record shop, and he showed me an album by Dean Friedman, a misanthrope comic pop singer from the 1970s, and damned if this guy didn’t look just like. Or I like him, rather.

Strange but true. | Courtesy of John King

I even had the same suit he was wearing on the cover. But he never reached the level that we could call “famous,” but he did write the soundtrack for “I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle” and he is a damn fine near-doppelgänger.

But, if you don’t mind, I would love to take this opportunity to address my true doppelgänger, and the curious situation that has been going on over the last five years or so here in Louisville. Most of the time when people say you look like so-and-so and when you actually meet so-and-so, you are horrified. But after a couple of years of people saying I had an exact copy in town, I finally saw him.

Actually, my sister and I were at the movies, and I saw my sister walking toward someone and realized it was him. I think my sister and I maybe irritated him, but we both were like, “Oh my god! It’s you! Look at him! He looks exactly like me!” Poor guy, but the fellow does look exactly like me.

Recently a friend of mine called, and when I answered, he said, “Where are you?” I said I was at work, and he explained that he and a friend just saw “me” at a mall but was startled when I pretended not to know them, until he remembered I had an exact double.

I’m telling you, this guy could walk in to a bank and say, “It’s me John King, now give me your money!” And I would go to jail as a bank robber. I only saw him the one time and know nothing about him, not even his name, but I always wanted to chat with him. If you are reading this, doppel-friend, call me up, let’s hang, I’ll buy you a slice of diced prosciutto pizza.

Who would you most like to be stuck with in an elevator?

If it was a fancy new elevator with piped-in music playing old country tunes, my mother and I could talk for hours. She is also quite the music lover and knows so much about rock ‘n’ roll, country, doo wop … she has a story for just about every musician on the dial.

When I was a kid, when other mothers were telling bedtime stories or Bible stories to their kids, my mother would tell the story about Johnny and June and make it sound like the greatest love story ever told!

Closed due to serious discussions going on inside.

If there wasn’t any music playing and it was an old Otis elevator, then I would want it to be Mayor Greg Fischer and Gill Holland. I think it would be the only way those two guys would listen to anyone who wasn’t an out-of-town real estate speculator.

With so many in our beloved town suffering, being exploited and living out in the cold because of the selfish choices certain people are making, someone needs to calmly explain in an elevator that can’t be opened that those choices are not what we want to represent us when people think about Louisville.

Louisville should be for lovers, not for bulldozing homeless camps a week before Christmas and allowing poor neighborhoods of working families to be rezoned C-2 commercial so that corporate interests can take advantage of cheap land by displacing the existing population because they don’t have the money to defend themselves.

When the world thinks about Louisville, I don’t want them to think of disgraced sports teams, corrupt universities, runaway gentrification and a mayor who refuses to raise the minimum wage above $9 an hour. I want them to think about love and acceptance, and the wonderful town we all know Louisville can be, where everyone has an equal chance at happiness.

Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville. She's known around town as the Bar Belle and updates her blog (barbelleblog.com) daily. She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."


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