Once in lifetime, and almost never, along comes a pitch perfect kind of music that simply moves -- no -- burrows its way into the house of your heart, and lives happily after after, forever reverberating in your soul, and that, to me, was the sound of The Everly Brothers.
Tender is the word that comes to me as I sit here listening to "Like Strangers." Their blend was the sound of perfectly conjoined love: honey mixing with honey.
Despite their rancor, this had to be the sound of their true subtext. Brother love is a complicated thing. There is just so much love/hate that, in the end, love hurts -- and I'm sure that at their most strained times, Phil and Don just could just not take it.
But when the hate finally dissolved, and they were lured back into the spotlight, love was the only thing that existed on the stage. Pure. Sweet. Tender.
The fifties were a troubled time of deeply twisted internal conflict, perhaps more than any other time. We were innocent (we used to dream about the future with our eyes open, especially at World Fairs) and yet we were also full of sci-fi quality paranoia and abject fear, and the only thing that freed us from the impending doom of Communism, witch hunts, black lists and duck and cover Nuclear War was rock and roll music. Elvis released all the tension like a Bikini Island explosion, but Buddy Holly and Phil and Don Everly made modern music and our lives romantic again. It made impossible love possible again.
There was no cynicism or sarcasm or irony in their tone. There was a deep swelling well of sadness and regret and loneliness to be discovered there. Yearning love, too. Desire. Simplicity.
Their sound was so original and real and true, that even The Beatles were rejected early on, over and over again by record companies for sounding too much like them. Simon and Garfunkel later carried their torch, as did The Hollies and any other duo who has come after them.
Their songs were a two and a half minute vacation from the unbearable harshness of the horrors of our everyday life. Their sonic jigsaw pieces fit together perfectly, and that gave immediate clarity to our lives. And hope. And of course, harmony. There was no dissonance or studio embellishments that are often, if not usually, found in today's over produced and bloated, and spectacularly empty, music.
I watched this year's New Year's Eve broadcast and found myself feeling sad for this year's model of lost generation.
There was virtually no intelligence or feeling in any of the music. There was mostly , with little exception, snarkiness, twerking, genital manipulation, dancing side show freaks and copy cat background dancing, which the mass of Times Square kids responded to as if they were at a Nazi Youth Rally. It was all so pre-programmed and robotic; as cold as the frigid night.
But there is hope. All is not lost.
Recently, Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones released a duos cover album of Everly Brothers hits as did the lesser known but equally talented Chapin Sisters. It's like they went excavating in search of their soul and hit emotional pay dirt. The Beatles charted three times last month, too, with the releases of the BBC recordings and bootlegs and even their number one album. A few years back, Adele totally got it too, and promptly sold sixty gatrillion albums of pure heartache.
So the torch is clearly and occasionally being craftily carried.
This is not a clarion call for nostalgia, or even a campaign to prove that my generation and the one before it was better than yours. Innovation excites me at every turn. But not at the sake of the human heart. We are slavishly the 'i" generation who mutually grope our smartphones like a band of self stimulating, porn addicted monkeys, and as much as I adore Apple and Steve Jobs, I'm still pretty steamed about being branded with the lowercase "i."
I would so much rather be the "I" of anyone's Apple.
The thing is, I want to be seduced by sound, lulled, rescued and adored. I want to be lifted back into life, the way The Beatles lifted us all after the dark days of the Kennedy assassination. I do not want to be pummeled and assaulted by my music. I do not want to be manipulated to respond predictably, right on cue every time Ryan Seacrest says, "Is that great or what?"
I want to idolize the song and not the idol.
Phil Everly was one half of the dynamic duo who reminded us just how powerful, intoxicating curative and spontaneously erotic music could be. In seconds, their music (which always sounded like two mournful, heavily smitten guys who were totally on the same, note sharing page with each other) was able to make party people dance really, really, REALLY slow in what could only be described as a rite of socially acceptable, supercharged, nipples on high alert, highly erotic, public tribal sex -- and you didn't need Bill Masters to figure out what the hell was going on.
And yet, it did not feel for a second like dirty dancing. It felt like good ol' American, heart-pumping, blood-engorging, heavy-breathing, through your clothes, organ rubbing. Love by friction.
I don't know about you, but I much prefer that kind of audience participation to standing with a million frozen popsicle people in Times Square, watching numbly as Miley Cyrus, ironically dressed like the Times Square hookers of yore, tongue- laps her way through yet another autotune, like a semi clad reptile.
So, oh, how I will miss Phil.
But that is not the only Phil lost this week.
I also lost another Phil: My Uncle Phil died (I was co-exec on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air) and that really hurt. James Avery was a very tender man who loved to immerse himself in jazz in his high tech wired dressing room. He was a very deep and warm man whom I adored. Man he had a great laugh -- especially when he screwed up his lines on the set, which was often. His heart was as big as he was.
When I co-created the Wayans with my partner Leslie Ray and Shawn and Marlon, Warren Littlefield's instructions (it was originally created for NBC) was simple and absolute: It had to be a blue collar Fresh Prince, and we needed a strong dad like Uncle Phil. Uncle Phil was everyone's dad. He was the line drawn in the sand. He was in charge and his rules were never to be broken. He was the wrath that you would suffer if you violated his law. And we loved him for it. Long time gone today is that kind of Shakespearan figure in our lives who keeps us on the straight and narrow, and I think we are all flailing and failing because of it.
These were the Philharmonics of my personal life, and the symphonic sounds that simply made my life deeper, richer and better.
Uncle Phil tamed the wild, wild Will Smith, and Phil Everly helped tamed the wild, often stampeded heart. Both gave us a sense of optimism. Both made us feel loved.
I urge you all to take a break, fire up your Spotify and immerse yourself in the music of the Everly Brothers... and when you just can't bear any more perfection, turn on the TV and let Uncle Phil instruct you on how best to live your life.
I wish you all a very Phil life.
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