The Beatles wouldn't be crossing the pond to America for another seven years, but all over the country, radios were blasting an infectiously bopping new tune that signified the arrival of a new sound. The song was called "Wake Up, Little Susie" -- a real toe-tapper, if ever there was one -- and it had been recorded by a pair of Midwestern siblings named the Everly Brothers.
The younger of the two, Phil Everly, passed away on Friday, just two weeks shy of his 75th birthday, and he took with him a part of music history -- our history, really.
Who doesn't equate some song -- some album, some artist -- to a special time in our lives? In the case of the Everlys, their arrival coincided with a seismic change in both the recording industry and the popular culture. The Big Band era was rapidly fading, rock and roll was in its infancy, and those of us in saddle-shoes spent a good part of our day driving around with our friends -- and our hand on the radio dial. The music of the time was our lifeblood, and we couldn't get enough of it.
And the Everlys were exciting -- delivering hit after hit, each one memorable for its easy sing-along melody, which the brothers served up with their trademark pitch-perfect harmonies.
"When Will I Be Loved." "Cathy's Clown." "Let It Be Me." "Be-Bop-A-Lula." "All I Have to Do Is Dream."
And, of course, "Wake Up, Little Susie" -- which not only sold in the millions, but remains, to this day, embedded in our sense memories like a kind of soundtrack to our lives.
The music of my youth is still a powerful force for me. I'll never forget when I was about 17, I'd go the movies every weekend with my friends. Afterward, we'd all pile into the car and head to Webb's, a drive-in restaurant on Linden and Wilshire, for a hamburger and fries. We'd be having a grand old time, with the car radio turned to our favorite show -- and then at the stroke of midnight, "Goodnight, Sweetheart" by the Spaniels would start to play.
To this day, even the first few bars of that song fill me with a teenage electricity, flashing me back to a time when everything seemed so carefree, friendships were all that mattered, and the future was still an adventure beyond the horizon. (Then again, that song also fills me with a bit of dread: midnight was my curfew back in those days, and hearing it meant I was late. And Dad would be waiting.)
But that's the way it is with music -- it connects us to our hearts, and it stays with us for a lifetime. And so we send our farewell and thanks to Phil Everly for all that wonderful music, and we send our condolences to his family, as well.
In the words of that Everly Brothers song itself, "Bye Bye, Love."
Here's a slide show of some other songs that will surely take you back to a moment in your lives. Enjoy!