The death of Phil Everly at age 74 in early January brought forth a host of kind words and condolences from some of the music industry’s biggest stars, a testament to the influence that the music of Phil and his brother Don still exerts more than a half-century past their heyday in the late 50’s and early 60’s.
Perhaps none of those testimonials was as significant and heartfelt as the one offered by Paul McCartney, who wrote on his official Facebook page about how much The Beatles owed to The Everly Brothers. “Phil Everly was one of my great heroes,” McCartney wrote. “With his brother Don they were one of the major influences on The Beatles. When John and I first started to write songs, I was Phil and he was Don.”
If you’ve influenced the greatest band in rock and roll history, by proxy you’ve influenced every artist that came in their wake. And with pristine performances like “Crying In The Rain,” it’s easy to hear why the Everlys cast such a vast shadow. Going back to the Fab 4 comparison, it’s impossible to imagine a heartbroken Lennon/McCartney ballad like “If I Fell” existing without “Crying In The Rain” as a precursor.
Although The Everly Brothers were accomplished writers in their own right, penning huge hits like “Cathy’s Clown” and “When Will I Be Loved,” “Crying In The Rain” came courtesy of the Brill Building songwriting team of Carole King and Howard Greenfield, a duo that only worked together on this one song. They made their lone collaboration one to remember, a masterpiece of melancholy that was tailor-made for the brothers’ heavenly harmonies.
“Crying In The Rain” posits a scenario where a jilted guy summons enough pride to keep a brave face around his ex. It’s all a façade of course, since he holds off his breakdowns until the precipitation can act as a convenient cloak.
No amount of bad weather can ever erase the damage done: “Raindrops falling from heaven/Could never wash away my misery.” While the narrator can envision a time when things will get better, his only option until then is to wait for the merciful rain to give him the cover he needs: “I may be a fool/But till then, darling, you’ll never see me complain/I’ll do my crying in the rain.”
As brilliant as the composition might be, The Everlys’ interpretation takes it to stratospheric levels of lovely loneliness. Don sings the main melody line, staying composed in the midst of the romantic tumult. But Phil soars above it with harmonies that allow the pain and anguish to go unchecked.
“Crying In The Rain” advocates hiding sorrow whenever possible, but that advice is useless for most music fans in the wake of the Phil Everly’s death. It’s probably better to put on this classic weeper and appreciate those achingly beautiful high harmonies even as you wallow in the song’s comforting sadness.