R.I.P. Dept.: Everly Brothers’ Phil Everly Dead at 74

Don (left) and Phil Everly.

Phil Everly, one of the great harmony singers in rock ‘n’ roll, and half of the legendary duo the Everly Brothers, died today in Burbank, CA. He was 74

His wife Patti Everly said the cause of death was complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to the L.A. Times.

Phil Everly was a longtime smoker.

The peak of the duo’s popularity was in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when they charted nearly three dozen hits on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart,including “Cathy’s Clown,” “Wake Up Little Susie,” “Bye Bye Love,” “When Will I Be Loved” and “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” The duo was among the first 10 performers inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

The Beatles once called themselves “the English Everly Brothers.” Bob Dylan, who covered two of their hits, “Let It Be Me” and “Take A Message To Mary” on Self Portrait, said of the duo, “We owe these guys everything. They started it all.”

In an obit at Rolling Stone’s website, David Browne wrote:

Harmony singing had been key in country and bluegrass, but starting with their first hit, 1957’s “Bye Bye Love,” the Everly Brothers brought the sound of deeply intertwined voices — and more than a hint of Appalachia — to rock & roll… The brothers’ close-knit harmonies were also a major influence on rock & roll, impacting on the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, the Mamas & the Papas, and many others.

Paul Simon on the Everly Brothers:

The roots of the Everly Brothers are very, very deep in the soil of American culture. First of all, you should know that the Everly Brothers were child stars. They had a radio show with their family, and their father, Ike, was an influential country guitar player, so he attracted other significant musicians to the Everlys’ world — among them Merle Travis and Chet Atkins, who was instrumental in getting the Everlys on the Grand Ole Opry. Perhaps even more powerfully than Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers melded country with the emerging sound of Fifties rock & roll. They were exposed to extraordinary country-roots music, and so they brought with them the legacy of the great brother groups like the Delmore Brothers and the Blue Sky Boys into the Fifties, where they mingled with the other early rock pioneers and made history in the process.

Read more of Paul Simon’s comments here.

Chris Isaak said of the Everly Brothers last month: “They’re the best singers of all time, you know?”

John Fogerty and Bruce Springsteen covered the Everly’s “When Will I Be Loved” in 2009 for Fogerty’s album, The Blue Ridge Rangers (Ride Again).

In November 2013 Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones released Foreverly, in which they covered the duo’s entire 1958 album Songs Our Daddy Taught Us.

The Everly harmonies “are so immaculate,” Armstrong told USA Today during an interview last year. “And that record [the duo’s second album, Songs Our Daddy Taught Us] was pretty daring at the time. A lot of other rock guys were trying to go pop. Chuck Berry had a string of big hits, and the same with Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis. And here the Everlys were playing these torch songs and murder ballads. For them to do something so dark and angelic was appealing to me.”

Read Rolling Stone’s obit here.

The L.A. Times obit.

“Wake up little Susie” (1957):

“All I Have To Do Is Dream” (1958):

“Take A Message To Mary” (1958):

“Let It Be Me” (1959):

“Cathy’s Clown,” Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show. July 09, 1960:

John Lennon on piano singing “Cathy’s Clown,” and then The Beatles play a bit of “Cathy’s Clown” as well:

Bob Dylan, “Let It Be Me”:

Let It Be Me by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

Bob Dylan, “Take A Message To Mary”:

Take a Message to Mary by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

John Fogerty and Bruce Springsteen, “When WIll I Be Loved”:

Billy Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones, Foreverly — full album:

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About Michael Goldberg

Michael Goldberg is a distinguished pioneer in the online music space; Newsweek magazine called him an ‘Internet visionary.’ In 1994 he founded Addicted To Noise (ATN), the highly influential music web site. He was a senior vice-president and editor in chief at SonicNet from March 1997 through May 2000. In 1997, Addicted To Noise won Webby awards for best music site in 1998 and 1999, and also won Yahoo Internet Life! awards for three years running as best music site in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Prior to starting Addicted To Noise, Goldberg was an editor and senior writer at Rolling Stone magazine for 10 years. His writing has also appeared in Wired, Esquire, Vibe, Details, Downbeat, NME and numerous other publications. Michael has had three novels published that comprise the "Freak Scene Dream trilogy": "True Love Scars," "The Flowers Lied" and "Untitled" which can be ordered here. His new book, "Wicked Game: The True Story of Guitarist James Calvin Wilsey," can be pre-ordered from HoZac Books. In November Backbeat Books will publish "Addicted To Noise: The Music Writings of Michael Goldberg," which can be be pre-ordered here.

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