Phil Everly, one half of The Everly Brothers, whose close harmonies and memorable songs became one of the biggest influences on The Beach Boys and The Beatles, died at his Los Angeles home on Friday at the age of 74.
Together with his elder brother, Don, he held the record for the most top 100 singles in the US Billboard charts. The Everly Brothers' success in the UK led to 30 chart singles – 13 in the top 10 and four number ones, including "All I Have to Do Is Dream" and "Cathy's Clown", both of which stayed at the top of the charts for seven weeks.
The Everly Brothers were so influential that Sir Paul McCartney impersonated Phil and once recalled how John Lennon had pretended to be Don when they were young. In a statement released yesterday, Don Everly said: "I was listening to one of my favourite songs that Phil wrote and had an extreme emotional moment just before I got the news of his passing. I took that as a special spiritual message from Phil saying goodbye. Our love was, and will always be, deeper than any earthly differences we might have had."
By 1962, the Everlys had earned $35m from record sales. But the pair had an acrimonious bust-up on stage in 1973 when Phil threw his guitar to the ground, forcing Don to tell the audience the pair were splitting.
They reportedly did not speak to each other for 10 years, except at their father's funeral. The brothers reunited in 1983 for a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London, subsequently touring and also returning to the studio to record several more albums.
"Don and I are infamous for our split, but we're closer than most brothers," Phil told Time magazine. "Harmony singing requires that you enlarge yourself, not use any kind of suppression. Harmony is the ultimate love."
Tributes poured in yesterday for the musician, whose last public performance was in 2011. His wife, Patti, told the Los Angeles Times that Phil Everly died after suffering complications from lung disease. "We are absolutely heartbroken," she said, blaming his illness on a lifetime of cigarette smoking. "He fought long and hard."
Phil, who took the higher part, and Don, singing baritone, had their first US number one in 1957 with "Wake Up Little Susie". The same year, "Bye Bye Love" reached number two, both songs showcasing the distinctive harmonies that went on to help shape acts such as Simon and Garfunkel and The Byrds.
US guitarist and friend Duane Eddy, who produced Everly's first solo album after the split with his brother, described his death as "a huge blow".
Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber said last night that he was "devastated", adding: "The death of Phil Everly closes one of the greatest chapters in rock history."
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