Phil Everly, who, alongside his brother Don, was one of the most influential singers and songwriters of the rock era died Friday of complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease caused by a lifetime of cigarette smoking, reports the Los Angeles Times. Phil, who died at 74, was the younger brother in the duo that influenced some of the biggest names in rock with their harmony that sounded “like these two little angels that sing,” as Billie Joe Armstrong recently said, according to the Associated Press.
The brothers influenced artists like the Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel, and Neil Young, to name a few. The Beatles once referred to themselves as “the English Everly Brothers” and Bob Dylan was eager to give the brothers credit: “We owe these guys everything. They started it all.” Phil sang the higher notes while Don usually sang baritone, “their voices intertwining organically, almost supernaturally,” notes USA Today.
The Everly Brothers were hit-making machines, particularly between 1957 and 1962 when they had 19 top 40 hits. By the end of their career, the duo had made the Billboard top 40 chart 26 times, with hits like Wake Up Little Susie, Bye Bye Love, All I Have to Do Is Dream, and When Will I Be Loved. The brothers were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, its first year.
The Everly Brothers broke up in 1973 after Phil smashed a guitar in a concert in California and walked offstage. They went on to record solo albums before reuniting a decade later for a 1983 concert at the Royal Albert Hall, notes the New York Times. “I loved my brother very much,” Don Everly wrote in a statement to the AP. “I always thought I’d be the one to go first. I was listening to one of my favorite songs that Phil wrote and had an extreme emotional moment just before I got the news of his passing. I took that as a special spiritual message from Phil saying good-bye.”