Phil Everly — A Life Well Spent

Monday, 06 Jan 2014 11:46 AM

By Jon Friedman

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It has been fashionable for a long time for the media to celebrate and hype the '60s — or as the decade is commonly referred to as, the Fabulous '60s — and by cruel comparison tacitly diminish the greatness of the 1950s.
 
Yes, such political and cultural touchstones as President JFK, The Beatles, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, Bob Dylan, the rise of feminism, a moon landing, and improving race relations were all monumental news stories around the world.
 
But don't forget about the meaning of the 1950s — and when you think of that golden decade, remember the great Phil Everly, who died over the weekend in Los Angeles at the age of 74.
 
Of course, Phil Everly was one half of the Everly Brothers, whose gallery of memorable songs included "Bye Bye Love," "Wake Up Little Susie," and "Let It Be Me." 
 
They were giants in the 1950s by the dint of their talent and impressive harmonies. Without the Everly Brothers, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, and so many other singing groups that followed in their path would not have sounded nearly the same.
 
Phil and his brother Don taught the world how to blend singing voices perfectly. It is a subtle and often underappreciated art. But it is also the cornerstone of the rock 'n' roll sound.
 
Crucially, the Everly Brothers didn't need the kind of media coverage that marked the arrivals of brooding '50s rock 'n' roll singing stars like Elvis Presley, Eddie Cochran, and Gene Vincent. Parents could appreciate the music of the Everly Brothers without worrying that their kids were poised to become anti-social derelicts. 
 
The '50s was when rock 'n' roll got its start as a cultural and entertainment-industry force in the United States, England, Canada, and elsewhere and the young performers became overnight celebrities. Much of the media hubbub of the day centered on the establishment's fear that rock 'n' roll would corrupt teenagers' minds and automatically turn them into hoodlums.
 
With the Everly Brothers, however, the focus was on making great music. That is why their work has thrived in every decade ever since their arrival on the scene. 
 
The Everly Brothers didn't have the leather-jacket notoriety of Elvis and the others. Their hallmark was simply making great music that has endured ever since. Phil Everly lived a life well spent.
 
Jon Friedman writes the Media Matrix blog for Indiewire.com. He is also the author of "Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)Invention, Shunning the Naysayers, and Creating a Personal Revolution." Read more reports from Jon Friedman — Click Here Now.
 
 

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