In Memoriam: Don Everly, of Everly Bros. duo, 84


The Everly Brothers, Phil (left) and Don (right), in a 1958 publicity portrait for Cadence Records. Photographer: Bruno of Hollywood

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Don Everly, the elder member of the influential mid-century singing duo known as The Everly Brothers, died August 22 at the age of 84. The news was relayed on The Everly Brothers’ official Instagram account. No cause of death was given.

Along with his younger brother, Phil, the Everly Brothers made their mark with hits such as Bye Bye Love; the mildly salacious Wake Up, Little Susie; and All I Have to Do is Dream. Those three songs were written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, with whom the Everlys enjoyed a long and fruitful collaboration, although they would later pen their own chart-toppers. The 1960 release Cathy’s Clown might be the best-known song they wrote and performed. The Beatles drew inspiration from the vocal arrangement of Cathy’s Clown when composing their early hit Please Please Me.

Born Issac Donald Everly in 1937 to a musically-oriented family, he and his brother grew up in Iowa and cut their teeth performing on their father’s radio show in the 1940s alongside their parents. The Everly family relocated to Tennessee and the brothers decamped to Nashville in the late 1950s, hoping to break into the music business.

Together, they earned enduring success, landing 26 singles in the Billboard Top 40 and receiving a GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. The Everly Brothers were the only duo chosen for the inaugural class of honorees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. (The death of Don Everly leaves Jerry Lee Lewis as the sole survivor of that group.) The Everly Brothers also entered the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.

While they sang superlative harmonies, the brothers didn’t always get along. During a July 1973 show at Knotts Berry Farm, Phil smashed his guitar and stormed off the stage, forcing Don to finish the show alone. A decade passed before they returned to the stage together.

Phil Everly died in 2014 of lung disease. Don was deeply affected by the loss of his younger brother, saying at the time, “Our love was and will always be deeper than any earthly differences we might have had.”

Don last performed in public in Nashville in 2018 as part of Paul Simon’s farewell tour, singing Bye Bye Love, with Simon taking Phil Everly’s part.

Don Everly is survived by his wife, Adela; his mother, Margaret; four children and six grandchildren.

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