The Everly Brothers: The sweetest DNA of rock and roll

The Everly Brothers (Phil, left, and Don) perform on ABC's "American Bandstand" on July 9, 1960. ABC/Getty Images

It happened this week, the passing of Phil Everly from pulmonary disease at age 74. As the younger half of The Everly Brothers, he helped create rock and roll as we know it. The brothers' youthful harmonies charmed the generation that came of age in the 1950s, and inspired many of the rock music greats that followed. An appreciation now from VH1's Bill Flanagan:

Phil Everly, the fair-haired Everly Brother, died on Friday. His brother Don survives him, but this marks the end of the Everly Brothers, one of the most important acts in the history of rock and roll.

Country music was part of rock from the time Elvis walked into Sun Studios, but the Everlys introduced the high lonesome harmony sound of traditional greats like the Louvin Brothers.

The Louvin Brothers: "Don’t Let Your Sweet Love Die" (mp3)

It is a straight line from the Everlys to Ricky Nelson, and to Linda Ronstadt, and the Eagles. Everything we call country rock comes from the Everlys.  

Ricky Nelson: "Poor Little Fool" (mp3)
Linda Ronstadt: "It's So Easy" (mp3)
The Eagles: "Take It Easy" (YouTube)

But that is not even their most important legacy. 

In the '50s, among the many teenagers who practiced being Everly Brothers in their bedrooms were two friends in Queens named Simon and Garfunkel, and two kids from Liverpool named Lennon and McCartney.  Dick Clark initially dismissed the Beatles as "Everly Brothers imitators."

Paul McCartney said a few years ago that anytime he started to lose patience with an over-bearing fan, he thinks back to how tongue-tied he and Lennon were when they came face-to-face with the Everlys for the first time.  

The Everly Brothers were the Beatles' Beatles. 

The Beatles: "Love Me Do" (mp3)

When two singers from rock or country duet, they usually start with an Everly Brothers song.  In recent years we have seen it with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Vince Gill and Sting, Carole King and James Taylor.

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss: "Gone, Gone, Gone" (YouTube)
Vince Gill & Sting: "Let It Be Me" (cmt.com)
Carole King & James Taylor: "Crying in the Rain" (YouTube)

Norah Jones and Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day released a whole album of Everly Brothers covers.

Billie Joe Armstrong & Norah Jones: "Foreverly" (YouTube)

You can argue about whether the Everlys' DNA is the most important part of rock and roll, but it is surely the sweetest,

The Everly Brothers: "Bye, Bye Love" (mp3)
The Everly Brothers: "All I Have to Do Is Dream" (mp3)
The Everly Brothers: "Cathy's Clown" (mp3)
The Everly Brothers: "Wake Up, Little Susie" (mp3)


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