Heartaches and harmonies

Today Don Everly — the oldest of the Everly Brothers — turns 68. If you love the Cosmic American Music, you know the Everly Brothers have a constellation all to themselves. They brought the close harmony singing of traditional country music into the mainstream of American popular music. More than a few great artists learned harmony singing by listening to their records. Paul McCartney paid his own sly tribute to them in “Let ‘Em In.”
After tearing through a succession of great songs written for them by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant at the end of the 1950’s, they struck out on their own with Warner Brothers in 1960. Some of their most brilliant work followed, including their monster 1960 Warner Brothers hit “Cathy’s Clown.” Even as their audience in the United States dissipated in the wake of the British Invasion, they continued deepening and perfecting their work on superb albums like “Roots” and “Songs Our Daddy Taught Us.” If you ever revisit this material, don’t miss “I Wonder If I Care As Much.”
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Their British fans never really left them. After performing together with their faces a few inches apart from each other for about 20 years, the brothers broke up in public on stage in 1972. When they reunited ten years later, they repaid their debt to their British fans by debuting the reunion in a concert at Albert Hall. Rhino Records recently released a complete, two-disc recording of that concert, and it is magnificent.
We saw the Everly Brothers when their reunion tour brought them to Minneapolis in June 1984, and again last year when two of their most attentive students — Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel — brought them to St. Paul as part of their own version of a reunion tour. Seeing them all together last year gave me the occasion to meditate on the emotional pull of the brothers’ close harmony singing in “The deep meaning of Simon and Garfunkel.”

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