TRIBUTES were paid today to rock and roll legend Phil Everly, of the Everly Brothers, who has died at the age of 74.
The singer, who was a lifelong smoker, died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at a hospital in Burbank,
California, according to his son Jason.
The music of Everly and his brother Don influenced the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Byrds and many other rock, country and folk singers.
Their hits included Cathy’s Clown, Wake up Little Susie, Bye Bye Love, When Will I Be Loved and All I Have To Do Is Dream. They fused rock ’n’ roll with high harmonies, while their poignant lyrics captured the restlessness and energy of a generation.
Their career spanned five decades, although they performed separately from 1973
to 1983 after an acrimonious fallout. In their heyday, between 1957 and 1962, they had 19 top 40 hits.
The Beatles, early in their career, once referred to themselves as “the English Everly Brothers” while Bob Dylan once said: “We owe these guys everything. They started it all.”
Although their number of hit records declined in the late 1980s, they made successful concert tours in the United States and Europe.
US guitarist and friend Duane Eddy, who produced Everly’s first solo album after the split with his brother, described his death as “a huge blow”. He said: “It was the most beautiful sound you’ll ever hear, I think, of two voices.
“They were like two great singers that came together who happened to be brothers and had that same sibling quality. It just made for a beautiful sound.”
Queen guitarist Brian May said he had lost a huge piece of his youth and described the brothers as heroes.
In a post on his website,
he wrote: “RIP Phil Everly… you were magic. I have tears in my eyes.”
English guitarist Albert Lee, who was the musical director for the brothers’ reunion concert and performed with them for more than two decades, said they had a unique sound.
“There was nothing like it. It was a combination of their country upbringing and when they became teenagers they fell in love with rock and roll,” he said.
“They sounded like no-one else.”
Lyricist Sir Tim Rice posted on Twitter: “Death of the great Phil Everly one of the saddest musical exits of all time for me. He and Don more influential than even they knew.”
Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong wrote: “The Everly Brothers go way back far as I can remember hearing music. Those harmonies live on forever. We’re gonna miss you Phil. Gratitude.”
Singer Nancy Sinatra, daughter of Frank, tweeted: “Touring with Phil and Don was one of the thrills of
my life. I love you Phillip – Godspeed.”
Don Everly was born in 1937 in Brownie, Kentucky, to Ike and Margaret Everly, who were folk and country music singers.
Phil was born in 1939 in Chicago, where the Everlys moved when their father grew tired of working in the coal mines.
The brothers began singing country music in 1945 on their family’s radio show in Shenandoah, Iowa.
Their career breakthrough came when they moved to Nashville in the mid-1950s and signed a recording contract with New York-based Cadence Records.
The Everlys’ hit records included the then-titillating Wake Up Little Susie and the universally identifiable Bye Bye Love, each featuring their twinned voices with lyrics that mirrored the fatalism of country music and a rocking backbeat.
These sounds and ideas would be warped by their devotees into a new kind of music that would ricochet around the world.
In 1960 the brothers signed with Warner Brothers, agreeing to a ten-year $1 million contract and making their debut with their own song, Cathy’s Clown – but by then their popularity was in decline.
Their break-up came dramatically during a concert at Knott’s Berry Farm in California in 1973.
Phil threw his guitar down and walked off, prompting Don to tell the crowd: “The Everly Brothers died ten years ago.”
During their split they pursued solo singing careers with little fanfare. Phil also appeared in the Clint Eastwood movie Every Which Way But Loose.
Don made a couple of records with friends in Nashville, performed in nightclubs and played guitar and sang background vocals on recording sessions.
They reunited in 1983 at a concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall, “sealing it with a hug”, Phil said.
In 1986 they were one of the first bands to be inducted into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
Don said the two were successful because “we never followed trends. We did what we liked and followed our instincts.”
Altogether their career spanned five decades. “Don and I are infamous for our split but we’re closer than most brothers,” Phil told Time magazine.
“Harmony singing requires that you enlarge yourself, not use any kind of suppression. Harmony is the ultimate love.”