Remembering the Everly Brothers
The Everly Brothers have left an undeniable impact on modern music, and I don't think they are talked about quite enough these days. They wrote some of the greatest love songs in pop music history, and were a monumental influence in the pioneering of rock n' roll, despite resembling more closely the class of crooners who had proceeded them. In case you don't know, last week, the last remaining of the two Everly Brothers, Don, passed away at the age of 84. In remembering his legacy, along with his brother Phil, I wanted to take a closer look at the legacy of the Everly Brothers. Looking back at their work from a modern perspective, the music might almost seem, basic. However, it has to be remembered that the Everly Brothers were among the first to ever bring these sounds to the music public. In listening to their work, you can definitely hear the influence which has transcended their own popularity and has engrained itself in popular music.
Art Garfunkel (of Simon & Garfunkel), once said that "the Everly Brothers were supreme. I often say on Mount Rushmore there should be Lincoln and Jefferson and Washington and Roosevelt and Don and Phil. They’re national treasures of the highest artistic level and we don’t give them their proper credit." To give them credit for the sound of Simon & Garfunkel is the obvious choice. The two often cited the Brothers as their greatest influence on their work, with their intertwining harmonies, as well as inadvertently, the impressive amount of backstage arguments they would endure. However, we can look beyond the obvious and into much of the music that we often attribute to being the building blocks to pop music as we know it.
For the Beatles, the Everly Brothers were also a great influence, particularly on the early half of their career. For the McCartney-Lennon songwriting duo, the Everly Brothers were an inescapable influence. Paul McCartney said during his tribute to Phil Everly, who passed away in 2014, that "Phil Everly was one of my great heroes. With his brother Don, they were one of the major influences on the Beatles. When John and I first started to write songs, I was Phil and he was Don." From the lyrical content of heartbreak and young love, to their own iconic harmonies, the Everly DNA is ever-present in nearly every Beatles track from before their psychedelic era. You can hear similar influences from the early to peak output from the Beach Boys, as Brian Wilson always knew where best to take influence from, and the Everly Brothers were it.
Among many other early rock n' rollers, another who cited the Brothers as friends and influences is Roy Orbison. I think Roy is another who doesn't get his dues in the modern discussions of rock history, and I think he's neck and neck with the likes of Freddie Mercury and Elvis Presley for greatest male vocalist in contemporary music.
He too said that the Everly Brothers helped him to find his voice for songwriting, and played a great deal of influence on his own greatest works, like songs such as Crying and Only the Lonely. Many of the artists of the 1960s who wrote of heartbreak, and love, and everything in between owe their songwriting origins to the Everly Brothers.
So for a pair of musicians who influenced a great host of the artists who helped establish the sound of music as we know it today? Why aren't they talked about nearly as much as some of their contemporaries?
Perhaps it's because their career was not as long as some of the others from their era (and their time active was notoriously filled with arguments and strife, being dubbed by Don McLean as the Enemy Brothers), or maybe the music just doesn't connect with modern audiences as it did in the late 1950s. Either way, you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't listen to some of their greatest hits. I'm sure you'll find at least a hint of their influence making its way even into the work of some of your favourite artists today. For a good playlist for a career overview, I'd recommend taking a quick peek at the Spotify curated playlist for their greatest hits, This Is The Everly Brothers.