Soul Serenade: Betty Everett & Jerry Butler, “Let It Be Me”
We lost Phil Everly late last week. Working with this brother Don, the Everly Brothers brought the sound of country music to rock and roll when it was still in its infancy. The vocal harmonies that the brothers became famous for influenced countless musicians who followed them, including John Lennon and Paul McCartney and Simon & Garfunkle, all of whom were quick to credit the influence of the Everly Brothers on their music.
The Everly Brothers had many hit records during a chart run which at its peak lasted from 1957’s “Bye Bye Love” through “Crying in the Rain” in 1961. There were many recording to follow, and even another Top 40 hit with “Bowling Green” in 1967, but it is that four year run for which the Everly Brothers have become legendary.
The brothers, as brothers often do, had a very public falling out on stage in 1973. They remained estranged for nearly a decade, but reunited for a triumphant show at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 1983, and continued touring into the new century, when they appeared as the featured act on Simon & Garfunkle’s “Old Friends” reunion tour. The circle was complete.
Among the many Everly Brother’s hits, none is more beloved than the beautiful “Let It Be Me.” The song first appeared in its original French version, “Je t’appartiens,” written and recorded by Gilbert Becaud, with lyrics by Pierre Delanoë. The lyrics were translated into English by Manny Curtis, and the first American version was performed by Jill Corey in 1957, when the song was heard in the tv show Climax. The Everly Brother’s version of the song, still the most popular, was released in 1960 and rose to #7 on the Billboard Hot 100.
There were many cover versions of all of the Everly Brother’s hits, and “Let It Be Me” was no exception. The 1964 cover of “Let It Be Me” by Betty Everett and Jerry Butler was released on the Vee-Jay label and it was a smash. At the height of the British invasion the record defied the odds and climbed all the way to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #1 on the Cashbox R&B chart.
“Let It Be Me” has been covered many times since then by artists including Sam & Dave, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Nina Simone, Sonny & Cher, Roberta Flack, the 5th Dimension, and Leonard Nimoy. The song has become a standard, often heard in films, on tv, and at weddings. “Let It Be Me” first entered the American public consciousness through the Everly Brothers, and its place in the pantheon of popular music was cemented by Betty Everett and Jerry Butler.