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Phil Everly, of Everly Brothers fame, dies at 74, wife says

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Sept. 7, 2011: Late musician Buddy Holly's wife Maria Elena Holly, left, looks on as musician Phil Everly speaks during a ceremony posthumously awarding Buddy Holly with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood.Reuters

Legendary pop singer Phil Everly, who together with his brother, Don, formed one of the 1960s most popular pop duos, died Friday, his wife, Patti Everly, told the Los Angeles Times. He was 74.

“We are absolutely heartbroken,” she told the newspaper, adding that Everly’s death from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease was brought on after a lifetime of cigarette smoking. “He fought long and hard.” 

The Everly Brothers charted nearly three dozen hits in their heyday from the late ’50s through the early ’60s. Some of their most notable songs – “Cathy’s Clown,” “Wake Up Little Susie,” “Bye Bye Love,” “When Will I Be Loved” and “All I Have to Do is Dream” – have become pop staples and influenced major acts such as the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Byrds, the Times reported.

In all, their career spanned five decades, although they performed separately from 1973 to 1983. In their heyday between 1957 and 1962, they had 19 top 40 hits.

The two broke up amid quarrelling in 1973 after 16 years of hits, then reunited in 1983, "sealing it with a hug," Phil Everly said.

Although their number of hit records declined in the late 1980s, they made successful concert tours in this country and Europe.

They were inducted into the Rock `n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, the same year they had a hit pop-country record, "Born Yesterday."

Don Everly was born in 1937 in Brownie, Ky., to Ike and Margaret Everly, who were folk and country music singers. Phil Everly was born to the couple on Jan. 19, 1939, in Chicago where the Everlys moved to from Brownie when Ike grew tired of working in the coal mines.

The brothers began singing country music in 1945 on their family's radio show in Shenandoah, Iowa.

Their career breakthrough came when they moved to Nashville in the mid-1950s and signed a recording contract with New York-based Cadence Records.

Their breakup came dramatically during a concert at Knott's Berry Farm in California. Phil Everly threw his guitar down and walked off, prompting Don Everly to tell the crowd, "The Everly Brothers died 10 years ago."

During their breakup, they pursued solo singing careers with little fanfare. Phil also appeared in the Clint Eastwood movie "Every Which Way but Loose." Don made a couple of records with friends in Nashville, performed in local nightclubs and played guitar and sang background vocals on recording sessions.

Don Everly said in a 1986 Associated Press interview that the two were successful because "we never followed trends. We did what we liked and followed our instincts. Rock `n' roll did survive, and we were right about that. Country did survive, and we were right about that. You can mix the two but people said we couldn't."

In 1988, the brothers began hosting an annual homecoming benefit concert in Central City, Ky., to raise money for the area.

Phil Everly last performed in public in 2011, but his son Jason told The Associated Press on Friday he had been actively writing songs, living part of the year in Burbank and the rest in Nashville. He said his father had been in the hospital for about two weeks when he passed away

Though the COPD caused by smoking affected his health, Jason Everly said it never affected that voice.

"He sang like an angel," his son said. "It was pretty surprising how he could still get those notes. We would still talk about it and sing together."

Click here to read more from the Los Angeles Times.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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