Remembering Phil Everly

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Phil Everly, the younger of the Everly Brothers, who influenced some of the greatest voices in rock'n'roll music, from Bob Dylan to the Beatles to Simon & Garfunkel, has passed away. He was 74. 

Everly died Friday evening from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California, his wife,  Patti Everly, told the L.A. Times. The disease was caused by cigarette smoking, she said.

Phil, with his brother Don, recorded over 20 top 40 hits in their long career together. The one filled with stops and starts, fights and forgiveness, but always sealed with the harmonies that made them one of the most revered recording duos in history. As members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame, the two have been recognized for the brilliance of "Wake Up Little Susie," or "Bye Bye Love," or "All I Have to Do Is Dream," or "Cathy’s Clown." The group has more hits than you shake a stick it. The Everly Brothers have also been credited by some of the greatest rock musicians in history as direct influences on their careers

The Everlys dealt in the entire emotional spectrum with an authenticity that appealed to proto rockers like the Beatles and Bob Dylan, who gladly pass the credit for the sea changes they made in rock to the ruggedly handsome brothers. The Beatles, the quartet whose pitch-perfect harmonies set the pop music world aflame, once referred to themselves as "the English Everly Brothers." And Dylan, pop culture's poet laureate, once said, "We owe these guys everything. They started it all."

Their effect on music can still be felt to this very day. This year, Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones recorded Foreverly, a tribute to the Everly Brothers' Songs Our Daddy Taught Us LP. 

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The Everly Brothers' relationship was not always healthy. From 1957 to 1962, the pair could do no wrong, releasing nearly 20 top 40 hits during that time. But they famously broke up on-stage in 1973, and spent the next decade apart. They always, eventually reunited, because music was in their blood, as Rolling Stone explains:

The sons of a Kentucky coalminer, the Everlys began entertaining in grade school: When the family relocated to Iowa, the family had a radio show (Ike, their father, was also a singer), and Don and Phil would perform on the daybreak-hour show before heading to school. When they were teenagers the brothers relocated to Nashville. Although Columbia Records took an early interest in them, it wasn’t until they cut "Bye Bye Love" — a song rejected by 30 other acts — for another label, Cadence, that the Everlys' career took off. "Driving back to Nashville when we got within radio distance, they had this pop station on in the car — and it was playing our record," Phil recalled to RS in 1986. "That was, like, big juju. It really was."

When they last preformed together, in 2003, it was at the behest of another contentious pair: Simon & Garfunkel. “They hadn’t seen each other in about three years," Simon told Rolling Stone. "They unpacked their guitars — those famous black guitars — and they opened their mouths and starting to sing. And after all these years, it was still that sound I fell in loved with as a kid. It was still perfect."

When news of Phil's death spread Friday evening, many shared their favorite Everly brothers songs and performances on the Internet, as a small way to remember one of rock's defining voices: 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.