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Don Everly, Half Of The Duo The Everly Brothers, Dies At 84

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Don Everly has died. If the name doesn't mean anything to you, the song surely will.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WAKE UP LITTLE SUSIE")

THE EVERLY BROTHERS: (Singing) Wake up, little Susie, wake up.

FADEL: He was one half of The Everly Brothers. The other member of the duo, Don's brother Phil, died in 2014. The singer and guitarist's death was announced by his family on Instagram. He was 84. The duo influenced generations of musicians, as NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports in this encore presentation.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

ELIZABETH BLAIR: In the early days of rock 'n' roll, Don and Phil Everly's blend of infectious harmonies with drums and guitar gave them a string of top 10 hits.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BYE BYE LOVE")

THE EVERLY BROTHERS: (Singing) Bye bye, love. Bye bye, happiness. Hello, loneliness. I think I'm gonna cry.

BLAIR: Among those listening was a young Graham Nash. In 2014, Nash told NPR he and Allan Clarke, with whom he formed the Hollies, heard "Bye Bye Love" one night at a Catholic school dance in the north of England.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

GRAHAM NASH: It stopped Allan Clarke and I in our tracks. We had never heard anything like that. I mean, we were two teenagers that were singing together, but we didn't sound like that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BYE BYE LOVE")

THE EVERLY BROTHERS: (Singing) Bye bye, love. Bye bye, happiness.

BLAIR: Don Everly was born in Brownie, Ky., in 1937. The brothers' parents, Ike and Margaret Everly, were touring musicians. Eventually, little Donnie and baby boy Phil were part of the act, singing four-part harmonies with their parents. The brothers' early training paid off. Warner Brothers reportedly offered them a $1 million recording contract - a lot of money in 1960.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CATHY'S CLOWN")

THE EVERLY BROTHERS: (Singing) Don't want your love anymore - don't want your kisses, that's for sure.

BLAIR: Despite the hits, there was growing tension between the Everly Brothers. They spent six months in the Marine Corps reserves. Both brothers struggled with drug addiction. Then the Beatles started taking over the airwaves. Don and Phil's relationship came to a dramatic end in 1973. At a concert in California, Phil smashed his guitar and stormed off stage. They didn't speak for years. Then, in 1983, a musician friend convinced them to do a reunion concert at London's Royal Albert Hall. When Don Everly spoke to NPR a few years later, he talked about what it was like creating those lush, at times yearning harmonies with his brother.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

DON EVERLY: When Phil and I hit that one spot where - I call it the Everly Brothers - I don't know where it is because it's not me. It's not him. It's the two of us together. So it amazes me sometimes. It did especially at the reunion. I'd been away from it for so long. I went out on stage with Phil, went out in front of the audience. Rehearsals - it didn't really feel like it did when we got out in front of the audience. And I looked over at Phil, and he was singing away. And I was singing away, and it just seemed like it was coming from someplace else.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL I HAVE TO DO IS DREAM")

THE EVERLY BROTHERS: (Singing) I need you so that I could die. I love you so, and that is why whenever I want you, all I have to do is dream.

BLAIR: It was like lightning striking, Linda Ronstadt once told NPR of Don and Phil's voices coming together. She went on to say that she and other artists, like Bob Dylan, the Byrds and the Eagles, all went streaming through this gate that the Everly Brothers opened.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHEN WILL I BE LOVED")

THE EVERLY BROTHERS: (Singing) I've been made blue. I've been... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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