Legendary pop singer Phil Everly, who together with his brother, Don, formed one of the 1950s & 60s most popular pop duos has died. He was 74.
“We are absolutely heartbroken,” Patti Everly, Phil’s wife said, adding that Everly’s death from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease was brought on after a lifetime of cigarette smoking. “He fought long and hard.”
The Everly Brothers, who began singing country music in 1945 on their family’s radio show in Shenandoah, Iowa, got their career breakthrough came when they moved to Nashville in the mid-1950s and signed a recording contract with New York-based Cadence Records. They charted 29 hits in the UK and nearly three dozen in the States. Some of their most notable songs – Cathy’s Clown, Wake Up Little Susie, Bye Bye Love, When Will I Be Loved and All I Have to Do is Dream – have become pop staples and influenced major acts such as the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Byrds.
They were inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, the same year they had a hit pop-country record, “Born Yesterday.”
The two broke up amid quarrelling in 1973 after 16 years of hits, then reunited in 1983, ‘sealing it with a hug,’ Phil Everly said. Although their number of hit records declined in the late 1980s, they made successful concert tours in this country and Europe. Their breakup came dramatically during a concert at Knott’s Berry Farm in California. Phil Everly threw his guitar down and walked off, prompting Don Everly to tell the crowd, “The Everly Brothers died 10 years ago.”
During their breakup, 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 local nightclubs and played guitar and sang background vocals on recording sessions.
Don Everly said in a 1986 Associated Press interview that the two were successful because “we never followed trends. We did what we liked and followed our instincts. Rock `n’ roll did survive, and we were right about that. Country did survive, and we were right about that. You can mix the two but people said we couldn’t.”
In 1988, the brothers began hosting an annual homecoming benefit concert in Central City, Kentucky to raise money for the area.
Phil Everly last performed in public in 2011, but his son Jason siad on Friday he had been actively writing songs, living part of the year in Burbank and the rest in Nashville. He said his father had been in the hospital for about two weeks when he passed away.
“He sang like an angel,” his son said. “It was pretty surprising how he could still get those notes. We would still talk about it and sing together.”