Monday, January 6, 2014

What do Harvey Littleton and Phil Everly have in common?

Besides the fact that both died recently, that is. At a glance they appear to have very little in common. Harvey K. Littleton was a glass artist and U.W.--Madison art instructor whose work became known in the 1960s and 70s. Phil Everly was half of the Everly Brothers, pop musicians with chart-topping hits in the 1950s and 60s.

What they had in common also transcends the success and fame that each achieved in his respective creative discipline. Littleton's unique style of glass-making led his work to be collected by museum's all over the world. The Everly Brothers not only had a consistent string of hit songs with a similarly unique style but were among the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the year it opened. But what really marked the careers of both was the influence they had on their disciplines and the reverence with which their example was held by later generations of practitioners.

At Madison Littleton founded what became known as the Studio Glass Movement. Furthermore, he taught many equally gifted and occasionally more famous glass artists (Dale Chihuly, for example.) This piece, called Lemon/Red Crown, is owned by our own Milwaukee Art Museum.

Likewise, not only have many musicians covered songs first made popular by the Everly Brothers, including The Beatles, Linda Ronstadt, and Simon and Garfunkle, but their influence is pervasive across the genre lines of Rock, Country, R&B, and Rockabilly.

On a more personal note, while I never took a glass-making class or met him myself, I did attend the University of Wisconsin in the mid-70s when Littleton was at the pinnacle of his career. No one could take art at Madison and not be aware of his stature. I remember walking past the glass studio, which was on a separate part of the campus from the rest of the Art Department. It always had a air of mysterious power, as if it weren't quite part of the real world. Undergrad fantasies perhaps. But the glass that was produced there and exhibited around campus was sublime.

To read the obits go to:
Harvey K. Littleton, Pioneer in Glassworks, Dies at 91

Phil Everly, Half of a Pioneer Rock Duo That Inspired Generations, Dies at 74

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