The Los Angeles Times has broken the news that Phil Everly has died.
The junior Everly Brother died today (1/3) of COPD at a hospital in Burbank, California. His wife Patti told the Times that Everly was a lifelong smoker.
There were few acts in this world that could match the harmonies of Phil and Don Everly. Their father, Ike, was a legend in western Kentucky for his guitar playing, and he raised his sons with a love of music and the harmonies of the likes of the Blue Sky Boys and the Louvin Brothers.
When rock and roll hit the Everlys managed to walk the fine line that allowed them to appeal to the country music fans and to the younger people who loved Elvis. Their harmonies had a profound impact on a couple of guys from Liverpool who were just beginning to make music together: John Lennon and Paul McCartney. (McCartney, in fact, wrote the Everlys' 1984 comeback hit "On the Wings of a Nightingale.") The list of hits was long: "Bye Bye Love," "All I Have to Do Is Dream," "Cathy's Clown," "I Wonder If I Care As Much," "Bird Dog," "Problems," "('Til) I Kissed You," "Walk Right Back" and "When Will I Be Loved" were some of the songs that topped the charts in the span between 1957 and 1961.
In 1962 both Phil and Don joined the Marine Corps Reserves. Their music career waned after their service, and they never had another top ten hit after "That's Old Fashioned (That's the Way Love Should Be)."
As brother acts will do (see: Ira & Charlie, Teddy & Doyle, Bill & Earl), the Everlys broke up in the early 1970's and pursued solo careers, neither of which managed to crack the Billboard single charts despite some good music. Both worked separately with Warren Zevon, who had been the piano player on the final Everlys tour in the early 70's. When Zevon recorded his first album in 1976 the first song on the record was "Frank and Jesse James," which he dedicated to Phil and Don.
Having grown up in the impoverished mining region of Muhlenberg County, Kentucky the duo reunited several times in the 80's and 90's for the "Everly Brothers Homecoming" to raise money for scholarships so students wouldn't have to face a life in the mines, and to help their hometown of Central City enjoy a few luxuries (such as a music venue) that larger cities had.
Only a handful of acts have been inducted into both the Rock and Roll and the Country Music Halls of Fame. The Everlys were part of the inaugural class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, and in 2001 they joined eleven other acts for the largest induction class in Country Music Hall of Fame history.
Phil Everly was 74.