US country rock pioneer Don Everly, who was the surviving half of the Everly Brothers, has died aged 84 after a career delighting fans with a string of hits such as “Bye Bye Love” and “Wake Up Little Susie.”
His death Saturday in the music hub of Nashville, Tennessee was announced by the Country Music Hall of Fame, which called him “one of the most talented and impactful artists in popular music history.” No cause was provided.
Tributes from the music world were led by Carole King, Roy Orbison Jr and Julian Lennon, who tweeted: “R.I.P. Don Of ‘The Everly Brothers’ who along with his brother Phil, wrote some of the most memorable & classic songs of all time… Thank You for the Music.”
The duo, credited with influencing rock and country singers for decades, were among the inaugural honorees in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, alongside Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis. In 2001 they were inducted into its country counterpart.
Don’s brother Phil Everly died in 2014, aged 75.
The duo’s high-pitched, fluid harmonies brought them a series of hit ballads and rock tunes. “Wake Up Little Susie” and “All I Have to Do Is Dream” both topped the US charts in the 1950s.
Their output dropped off in the 1960s but they still chalked up favorites such as “Cathy’s Clown” and “Crying in the Rain.”
The group had a profound impact on the musical world, with their close harmonies emulated by groups including Simon & Garfunkel and the Beatles, as well as the Beach Boys, the Byrds, the Bee Gees and the Eagles.
Paul Simon later said the Everlys “were the most beautiful sounding duo I have ever heard.”
Rolling Stone magazine placed the group No. 1 on its list of the “20 Greatest Duos of All Time.”
The Everlys grew up in Iowa in a musical family — father Ike, originally a coal miner, was a talented guitarist — and by high school they had already drawn the help of a powerful mentor and promoter in famed guitarist Chet Atkins, a family friend.
“Bye Bye Love,” hit No. 1 in 1957. The pair signed with Warner Bros. Records in 1960, but joined the US Marine Reserves the following year, leading to a slowdown in their production.
Their popularity also faded as tastes changed and fans turned toward the groups of the so-called British Invasion.
Their last top-10 hit, “That’s Old Fashioned,” came in 1962, though they continued to record and tour.
The group broke up in 1973 — following a very public guitar-smashing dispute on a California stage — but had an emotional reunion performance 10 years later in London’s Royal Albert Hall and continued to perform occasionally until Phil’s death in 2014.
Country music singer-songwriter Gretchen Peters recalled the “mysterious alchemy” of the brothers’ harmonies.
“I heard it as a kid in Simon & Garfunkel, (then) later Gram & Emmylou, then made my way upriver to the Everlys. Pure magic. RIP Don Everly.”