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Lifestyle

January 5, 2014

Phil Everly and brother were architects of harmony

NEW YORK (AP) — Art Garfunkel answered the door to his Manhattan apartment holding a framed black-and-white picture of two smiling men. It was a test.

Correctly identifying Phil and Don Everly in the picture would reveal me as a journalist knowledgeable about music and the roots of Garfunkel’s career. Flustered, I failed. It should have been obvious.

The Everly Brothers, who will blend their voices no more following Phil’s death at 74 Friday from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, were the architects of rock ‘n’ roll harmony. Simon & Garfunkel were unimaginable without them. John Lennon and Paul McCartney took their cues, too. Their harmonies (and don’t forget George Harrison) formed the bedrock of the Beatles’ sound.

Like Garfunkel, Phil sang the high notes. He had the lighter colored hair. He would step away from the microphone, like on “Cathy’s Clown,” to let older brother Don sing a few lines alone and you noticed how unremarkable Don’s voice was unadorned. Only when that voice merged with his brother’s as a single, new voice did it become special.

The Everly Brothers’ reign on the pop charts was relatively short, from the mid-1950s until the British Invasion swept in a new generation in the early 1960s. The Everlys receded, but it was plain the newcomers had been listening.

Sweet as they sounded, their hits resonated because they taught a huge post-World War II generation as it was growing up that love wasn’t all roses, blue skies and candy. “Bye bye love,” they sang. “Bye bye happiness. Hello loneliness. I think I’m a-gonna cry.”

In the sumptuous “All I Have to Do is Dream,” the romance is frustratingly unrequited. “I need you so, that I could die,” they sang. “When Will I Be Loved,” they wondered. Even success was fraught with worry: the couple in “Wake Up Little Susie” fretted over whether anyone would believe their excuses when they fell asleep watching a movie.

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