(By George Lewis Easton)
I learned tardily the dreadful news of Phil’s passing on Jan.3 from an old school friend of mine. I then caught up with Cliff Richard’s video post on his FB page. Tributes were also paid to Phil in the US and elsewhere by fans and fellow artists of different generations: Linda Ronstadt, Warren Zevon, Norah Jones… In the 50s/60s era the distinctive mark of this engaging duo was their incredible singing in close, tight harmonies, teenage twin looks, sleek hair style, the infectious energy they exuded, and of course their guitar playing act. Don was the lead singer and his younger brother Phil sang the high parts. Listening to their ballads or fast moving numbers was a thrill, and still is.
“Bye Bye Love”, “Wake Up Little Susie”, “Cathy’s Clown”, “Bird Dog”, “All I Have To Do Is Dream”, “Be – Bop – A – Lula”, “Walk Right Back”, “Like Strangers”, “Ebony Eyes” are some of their early billboard hits. Right from infancy they wallowed in folk, rhythm and blues, and sundry musical genres thanks to their parents Ike and Margaret rooted in the Kentucky mining community, but who also travelled to Chicago and other places as singers and musicians ‘following their dream’. As a duo in their own right, the Everly Brothers soon replaced the Everly Family who were the guests of radio stations in the 40s and 50s. Soon the lads found the right inspirational rock and roll/pop sound which inspired the Beatles, Cliff Richard and the Shadows, Bob Dylan, the Hollies, the Byrds – to name only a few. The Everlys appeared on the Perry Como TV show (1) and the Brothers even made it to the Grand Ole Opry.
Though Phil outlived Buddy Holly and countless talented others nipped in the bud ( e.g. in 2011 Amy Winehouse), yet with his imprint on seven decades of rock and roll, pop and country music (both with Don and in solo in the 70s and 80s) it’s sad he departed only a few days before turning 75 on Jan. 19. So sad to watch good love go bad! Bye bye love; bye bye happiness; hello loneliness, I think I’m gonna die! These lyrics keep lingering in my mind.
Don and Phil benefited from the collaboration of guitarists Chet Atkins and Duane Eddy, and the best contemporary song writers and arrangers. They were produced by Cadence Records, Warner Brothers, and RCA. As a duo they split in 1973, both going their separate ways. However, they got back together in Sept. 1983 at the Royal Albert Hall for a Reunion Concert. This iconic London location reminded them of their parents’ presence there, years before when they had performed together and sung the songs “our daddy taught us”. Once again the magic worked, and they reconnected. At 40 + they had not lost their teenage enthusiasm, impeccable voice blending and sound fusion, as borne out by Phil’s eager eyes and Don’s emotions when fumbling for his words he exclaimed: “it’s good to be back again” . Above all it was a fitting tribute to Ike and Margy. Afterwards, for about 20 years they were on the road again, performing and recording both together and in solo. Paul McCartney even wrote “On the Wings of a Nightingale” especially for them. It was the first track on the EB 84 Album.
Phil has left some beautiful solo tracks like “Louise” and duetted with Cliff Richard: “All I Have To Do Is Dream” and ‘‘She Means Nothing To Me”, which was a No. 9 hit in the UK in 1983. They are among my favourites. Phil Everly died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) at the age of 74. An article in The Washington Post quotes his wife, who attributed the ailment to long time smoking.
Thank you and farewell, Phil Everly!
George Lewis Easton
(By George Lewis Easton)