Nash, Ronstadt Remember The Everlys' 'Sibling Sound'

Jan 5, 2014
Originally published on January 6, 2014 8:55 am



Phil Everly, half of the whole that was the Everly Brothers, died on Friday at the age of 74. The brothers were rock pioneers, and their style, including those close, unmistakable vocal harmonies, influenced a generation of musicians.


THE EVERLY BROTHERS: (Singing) Wake up little Susie, wake up. Wake up little Susie, wake up. We've both been sound asleep. Wake up little Susie and weep...

MARTIN: We spoke with two musicians profoundly shaped by the Everlys: Linda Ronstadt and Graham Nash of CSN and the Hollies. Nash and fellow singer Allan Clarke formed the Hollies in the mid-'60s and they were often compared with the Everly Brothers. Graham Nash is a masterful vocal harmonist himself, but he says Phil and Don Everly were unique.


BROTHERS: (Singing) Ooh la la, wake up, little Susie...

GRAHAM NASH: When the Everly Brothers sang together, there was something in their voice that made two voices into one voice that created a sound that I don't think is possible with unrelated singers.


BROTHERS: (Singing) Wake up little Susie, well, what we gonna tell your mama, what we gonna tell your pop, what we gonna tell our friends when they say ooh la la, wake up...

NASH: I have many, many favorite Everly Brothers songs. But I think the most important one to me was "Bye Bye Love."


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

NASH: That was the song that Allan Clarke and I as teenagers heard one Saturday night at a Catholic school girls' dance in the north of England, walking across the ballroom to go and talk to some friends, getting halfway across and "Bye Bye Love" blasting out of the speakers.


BROTHERS: (Singing) There goes my baby with someone new, she sure looks happy, I sure am blue...

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.


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

MARTIN: Linda Ronstadt grew up in a musical family and knows firsthand about that special sibling sound.

LINDA RONSTADT: You know, the idea that they were raised using the same accent, the accent of the English that you sing in affects phrasing, it affects intonation. So, they have that genetic match and then their voices - one was seated high, one was seated low - you know, that's like lightning striking. You just don't get that very much.

MARTIN: In the mid-'70s, Ronstadt had a huge hit with her remake of "When Will I Be Loved," written by Phil Everly.


RONSTADT: (Singing) I've been pushed down, I've been pushed around, when will I be loved?

When you really study something that somebody created and you sing it, it's an intimacy that you can establish. I don't know if he felt that way toward me but I felt that way toward him. You know, so those kinds of things are hard to put into words. But, you know, what I knew about the song was that it was just this incredibly emotional sensation that was distilled into the simplest facets of the words. You know, really economical writing, really efficient writing.

MARTIN: And that's what made you think, yeah, that's a song I want to take a crack at?

RONSTADT: I mean, I had heard the Blue Sky Boys and I'd heard the Louvin Brothers but they had the audacity to put, you know, there was this very traditional duet sound that came down out of this traditional music from Kentucky. And then they added, you know, rock and roll drums and electric guitar and bass and they made it into something totally different. They opened the door for those of us who later followed for folk rock. And so Bob Dylan, The Birds, Eagles, Peter and Gordon, the Beatles, you know, they all went streaming through this gate that the Everly Brothers opened.

MARTIN: Linda Ronstadt remembering Phil Everly who died Friday at the age of 74. We also heard remembrances from Graham Nash. This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. BJ Leiderman wrote our theme music. I'm Rachel Martin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.