Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bye Bye Love

Phil Everly died on January 3. Even my husband, who doesn't know beans about pop music, knew The Everly Brothers, admittedly after I sang him snippets of a few of their songs. Their influence on the Rock and Roll world was enormous, bringing the sweet beauty of harmony singing from bluegrass and country traditions to generations of rockers. The Beatles claim The Everlys taught them how to sing harmony, evidenced in "Please Please Me" and "Love, Love Me Do." Ricky Nelson, Linda Ronstadt and The Eagles are all descendants of this legacy. CBS News does a much better job of detailing The Everlys' influence, including audio and video clips to enhance the effect, in this tribute, written after Phil's death.

But no one can dispute that the group who was most inspired by and aspired to be The Everly Brothers was Simon and Garfunkel. They met as schoolboys and, in the beginning, called their duo Tom & Jerry, trying to look and sound as much as they could like Don & Phil Everly. In 2003-2004, Simon and Garfunkel organized a world tour, "Old Friends," celebrating fifty years together. There was no question of what group, if any, could share the stage with them. It had to be The Everly Brothers. Rolling Stone profiled this reunion in a great article, which I hope you'll take the time to read. Be sure to watch the video clip, showing S&G and The Everlys together briefly and then the brothers singing two songs. 

My sister, Iris, and I attended the Austin,Texas stop on the "Old Friends" tour and it was a night neither of us will ever forget. As soon as I heard Phil had died, I emailed her and reminded her of the experience; she replied that it was the first thing she'd thought of when she heard the news. It was a remarkable night because the concert almost didn't happen. As the Erwin Center filled and the crowd grew restless, starting time moved by and the curtain remained closed. At one point a spokesperson came out and told us one of The Everly Brothers was ill and was being evaluated by medical personnel, asking for our patience. More minutes passed until finally, over an hour after scheduled time, the curtain opened and the music began. It was immediately apparent that Simon and Garfunkel were not happy. Who knows what backstage intrigue had been going on and then spilled onto the stage. They sang beautifully, as consummate performers would, but they didn't smile, didn't look at each other and even stood at such an angle that they were almost back-to-back for the first few songs. But the audience that night, in my belief, saved the show, or at least made the show. I have never experienced being in such an enthusiastic audience. Nearly every song received a standing ovation and loud cheering. By the time S&G brought The Everly Brothers out, early in the set, the crowd was practically screaming, and continued to roar after every song. By the end of the evening, Simon and Garfunkel looked at each other, first with expressions of surprise, just shaking their heads at the reaction and then later, with smiles and laughter, ending in hugs all around. Magic. We got three encores and demanded more. 

In the 2003 Rolling Stone article I linked earlier, Paul Simon said, "It was hilarious that the four of us were doing this tour, given our collective histories of squabbling. And it's amazing because they (The Everly Brothers) hadn't seen each other in about three years. They met in the parking lot before the first gig. They unpacked their guitars--those famous black guitars--and they opened their mouths and started to sing. And after all these years, it was still that sound I fell in love with as a kid. It was still perfect."

Harmony singing has a unique effect on both those who sing and those who listen. As David Bauer said in his AP tribute to Phil Everly, "Singers discover that the sound of their voices together creates a magic that isn't there when each is alone."

Thank you, Phil Everly, for creating magic with your brother for so many years. You enriched my life and millions of others. And sadly now, whenever we want you, all we can do is dream. Here's my favorite Everly Brothers song, posted on YouTube ("Let It Be Me.")  

Thank you for stopping by today. I'll be back soon.