Phil Everly died

January 4, 2014 • 4:53 am

Given the older demographic here, I suspect many of you will remember the Everly brothers—Don and Phil—whose wonderful and influential harmonies reached us through records and car radios in the late Fifties and Early Sixties. (Many of us in fact learned harmony by singing along to songs like “Devoted to You”.)

According to The Washington Post, Phil Everly died yesterday at 74 of obstructive pulmonary disease:

A woman who answered the phone at his brother’s home told The Washington Post that Mr. Everly died at Providence St. Joseph’s Medical Center.

She said Don Everly was too upset to talk. “He expected he’d go first,” she told The Post. [JAC: Don was born two years before Phil.]

The medical center confirmed only that Phil Everly had died there.

“We are absolutely heartbroken,” Patti Everly told the Los Angeles Times, noting that her husband’s disease was the result of a lifetime of cigarette smoking. “He fought long and hard.”

As Wikipedia notes:

They hold the record for the most Top 100 singles by any duo, and trail only Hall & Oates for the most Top 40 singles by a duo. . . In 1986, the Everlys were among the first 10 artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. During the ceremony, they were introduced by Neil Young, who observed that every musical group he belonged to had tried and failed to copy the Everly Brothers’ harmonies. . . The duo’s harmony singing had a strong influence on rock groups of the 1960s. The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Simon & Garfunkeldeveloped their early singing styles by performing Everly covers. The Bee Gees, the Hollies and all rock’n’roll groups that feature harmony singing were influenced by the Everlys.

(James Taylor and Carly Simon did a particularly good cover of “Devoted to You” [performance at the link].)

Here are some of their greatest hits; I’ve indicated my favorites with asterisks and will put my own all-time favorite at the bottom (you can find a comprehensive list here). Most of these songs were written by others, but a few, including “‘Till I Kissed You,” “Cathy’s Clown,” and “When Will I Be Loved” were written by one or both of the Everlys.

Bye Bye Love
*All I Have to do is Dream
*Cathy’s Clown
*Devoted to You
Wake Up Little Susie
 (Till) I Kissed You
*Let it Be Me
*Walk Right Back
When Will I Be Loved

It’s hard to choose a favorite among the songs with asterisks, but I suppose it would be this one, performed live in 1985. (“Cathy’s Clown” and “Devoted to You” [peformances at links] would be close seconds.) Even twenty-odd years after their heyday, they hadn’t lost a lick. (The original version is here.)

The duo (Phil left, Don right):


24 thoughts on “Phil Everly died

  1. A sad day indeed. Like you, I grew up listening to the Everly brothers, and have already posted my personal favorite (“Wake Up, Little Susie”) on my facebook page.

  2. I too remember “Wake up, Little Susie” with suitable nostalgia. There is a Dutch version of it in which the genders are reversed and it is “Willem” who has fallen asleep. It’s plainly the same song, though.

  3. ” . . . the Everly Brothers’ harmonies. . . had a strong influence on . . . The Beach Boys . . . .”

    I’m sure that the Wikipedia entry is quite true enough, though Brian Wilson himself would be inclined to credit The Four Freshmen no less than the Everlys. (Wilson has certainly gotten his share of grief from R&R purists for his “square” Freshmen enthusiasms.)

  4. What a shame. I’ve always loved the music of the Everly’s; they’ve given me so many happy moments.

    Their career got a second wind in the 80’s with the help of Paul McCartney, who wrote “On The Wings of a Nightengale” for them. Despite all their great hits from the 60’s, that’s the first song that came to mind when I heard that Phil died.


    There will be many beautiful harmonies coming out of my stereo today. Thanks for the beautiful memories, Phil!

  5. I believe some early Beatles songs were strongly influenced by the Everlys. And the Everly Brothers were strongly influenced by the Louvin Brothers, who mostly sang gospel. So maybe religion doesn’t poison absolutely everything. 😉

    1. You are certainly right about the influence on The Beatles and the fact that much of early rock was influenced by gospel.

      Still, I religion still poisons music. At least I’d enjoy gospel-style much more if it wasn’t full of Jesus. (I realize your comment was tongue-in-cheek. 😉 )

      In any case, the Everly Brothers were some of the greats from my youth and I’m saddened to hear of Phil’s death.

  6. My favourite was actually the B side of “All I Have to do is Dream”: “Claudette”. It has a pretty tune,an insistent driving rythym, and a huge sense of optimism. It was written by Roy Orbison and named after his wife, but sounds very much the sort of song that Buddy Holly might have performed.

  7. Saw them in concert in Syracuse in 1966. “Let It Be Me” brought the house down. Arguably the greatest duo ever.

  8. It’s an “older demographic here” huh? I suppose it is, compared to some of those trendy “blogs” at least.

    But don’t young whipper-snappers know the Everly Bros. too? I’m Jerry’s age so I can’t really comment on the tastes of the new generation, but I’ll bet the Everly Bros. are better known to todays kids than some of the other acts popular in the late 50s/early 60s. Don’t we have any young people that visit this website who can tell us what’s happening with knowledge of the oldies?

    Well, I’m off to play shuffleboard.

    1. Well, compared to you and Jerry, 🙂 , I could be considered a young whipper-snapper, but I do know, and like, all of those Everly Bros. songs. (And DAMN, after my pathetic work out earlier today I definitely feel like I’m on the downhill slide.)

      Full disclosure, the first song that popped into my mind when I saw this post was You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, one of my favorite songs, and I was perplexed at not finding it in the list at the bottom of the post. It finally dawned on me “ahhhh, Righteous Bros., not Everly Bros.”

  9. There was a tradition of brother harmony acts that predated the Everlys, starting with gospel groups like the Bailes Bros and the Blue Sky Boys, (I think I have the chronology correct here) and then less-religious Louvin Bros, among others. A look at this by someone that knows more about it than I do would be interesting.

  10. Phil Everly also inspired a late 70’s hit – he told Warren Zevon, who had been the Everly’s Bros band leader, that he should write a dance hit called “Werewolves of London”

  11. Jerry,
    I am a French-Canadian published writer from Laval, Quebec. (Excuse my awkward English.)
    I just read your excellent article on Phil Everly. Merci. Thanks.
    The Everly Brothers harmonies were absolutely unique. A quest of eternity. Kind of an attemp to reconcile the yin and the yang of a fractured America.
    “Bye Bye Love” is pretty original. It is so lively and effervescent for such a dark song that it could has been sung by a Black choir.
    Please go down under section “Nouvelles, etc.” of my website, for an article written by me (in a very passable English) about Don and Phil in a miserable hotel of back country Quebec in 1966.
    André Pronovost

  12. Deeply saddened by the death of Phi Everly.
    I first heard the Everly Brothers at the age of eight when my older sister played their music constantly. That was 55 years ago and I am still as entranced by their beautiful voices as I was all those years ago. RIP Phil, you are greatly missed x

Leave a Reply