Don Everly, Rock Pioneer, Dead at 84

The Everly Brothers (L-R: Phil and Don) in 1962
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Don Everly, one half of the pioneering rock and roll duo The Everly Brothers, has died. He was 84 years old.

Everly's passing was confirmed on Instagram Sunday, Aug. 22, though no cause of death was disclosed.

Born in Kentucky in 1937, Isaac Donald Everly grew up in Iowa with his parents and younger brother Phil. Their father, a coal miner by trade, encouraged their musical interests; the whole family at one point had a local radio show. After a deal with Columbia Records (secured by country icon Chet Atkins) produced no hits, Don and Phil signed to Cadence Records in 1956 and recorded a tune penned by a husband-and-wife duo, Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, that had already been rejected by dozens of artists.

That song, "Bye Bye Love," formed the blueprint of The Everly Brothers' sound: an upbeat country/rock arrangement and instantly recognizable harmonies between the two brothers. The track settled in at No. 2 on the pop charts - kept from the top by Elvis Presley - but follow-up "Wake Up Little Susie," released the same year, hit the top. Those songs began a string of 15 Top 10 hits between 1957 and 1962, including "All I Have to Do is Dream," "Bird Dog," "Till I Kissed You," "Cathy's Clown," "When Will I Be Loved," "Crying in the Rain" and others.

The duo's well-honed harmonies - typically with Don on lower-range vocals and Phil on the higher-notes - influenced generations of performers. The Beatles based their vocal arrangement of "Please Please Me" on "Cathy's Clown," while Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones was a fan of Don's guitar style. Perhaps no one in the '60s was more influenced by The Everly Brothers than Simon & Garfunkel, who shared an affinity for tight harmonies. The duo would cover The Everly Brothers in concert and featured them in the 2004 concert release Old Friends: Live on Stage.

Tributes to the duo remain an ongoing concern: in 2007, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' Grammy Award-winning Raising Sand featured a cover of the group's "Gone, Gone, Gone," while Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong teamed with jazz singer Norah Jones for the tribute album Foreverly in 2013.

While The Everly Brothers began focusing on solo interests in 1973, the duo reformed a decade later and performed together sporadically, scoring a minor hit in 1984 with "On the Wings of a Nightingale," penned by Paul McCartney. The Everlys were part of the first class inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986; they were also inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Songwriters' Hall of Fame, and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Don is predeceased by Phil, who died of lung disease in 2014. He is survived by his mother, Margaret; his wife, Adela; four children and six grandchildren.

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