Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers Dead at 74: Here Are 5 of the Duo's Essential Hits

Siblings' hits included "Bye Bye Love" and "Wake Up Little Susie," and they were among the first class inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986

By Natalie Finn Jan 04, 2014 3:52 AMTags
Don Everly, Phil Everly, Everly BrothersAP Photo

The Everly Brothers' harmonies are for the ages now.

Phil Everly, the younger member of the fraternal duo whose sweet sound and steel-string guitar playing influenced acts ranging from The Beatles to Simon & Garfunkel, died on Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 74.

Wife Patti Everly told the Los Angeles Times that her husband, a life-long cigarette smoker, had suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

C Brandon/Redferns

"We are absolutely heartbroken," she said. "He fought long and hard."

Phil and brother Don were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's first class in 1986, their repertoire boasting dozens of Top 100 hits, including "Bye Bye Love," "Wake Up Little Susie" and other country-inflected pop songs that are still in rotation on classic radio today.

And the Everly Brothers' influence didn't run dry in the 1960s. Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones just released Foreverly, a reinterpretation of the duo's folksy 1958 album Songs Our Daddy Taught Us, in November.

"When you talk about harmony singing in the popular music of the postwar period, the first place you start is the Everly Brothers," Robert Santelli, executive director of the Grammys Museum, said in a statement. "You could say they were the vocal link between all the 1950s great doo wop groups and what would come in the 1960s with the Beach Boys and the Beatles. They showed the Beach Boys and the Beatles how to sing harmony and incorporate that into a pop music form that was irresistible."

"Phil Everly was a groundbreaking artist, and he leaves an indelible and timeless mark on music and our industry," added Recording Academy president Neal Portnow. "Our sincerest condolences go out to his family, friends and those who were inspired by his outstanding talent."

Don, 76, was born in Kentucky, while Phil was born two years later in Chicago. Their father, Ike, was a musician and he and wife Margaret moved the boys to Tennessee when they were in high school. Guitar legend Chet Atkins, a friend of the family, took an interest in Don and Phil's musical talents and introduced them to the producer who would ultimately lead them to their first record deal.

And the rest is rock 'n' roll history.

In honor of Phil, here are five (we had to cut the list off somewhere, or else shoot for 35) of the Everly Brothers greatest songs:

1. "Bird Dog," 1958: A No. 1 hit on the country chart that also reached No. 2 on the Billboard pop singles chart, this song about a high school Casanova who'll flirt with anyone (including the teacher!) is a real hoot. (And it segues into "(Till) I Kissed You," so you get two for one.)

2. "Bye Bye Love," 1957: They named a whole movie after this one, remember? Phil and Don were only 18 and 20 (young enough to be Pat Boone's grandkids as the host jokes in this clip) and it remains one of their signature songs.

3. "Wake Up Little Susie," 1957: This No. 1 pop hit addressed another high-school-era conundrum—in this case your date missing curfew because the two of you "fell asleep." Those little devils.

4. "All I Have to Do Is Dream," 1958: Definitely their most popular slow song, Phil and Don's eloquent harmonies are on full, dazzling display during this clip from a tour of the U.K. in 1960 when they were the opening act for Buddy Holly. (And, once again, there's a bonus on this clip, too.)

5. "Cathy's Clown," 1960: Their first single for Warner Bros., this fool-in-love's lament spent five weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, is ranked 149 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time and was name-checked by Elliott Smith on "Waltz 2 (XO)."

In addition to his wife and brother Don, Phil Everly is survived by mother Margaret, sons Jason and Chris and two grandchildren.

Per the Times, the funeral will be private.