This Glenn Frey article was written by Al Hall, a GIGsoup contributor
As a man who allegedly took three days in the studio to get the correct intonation on the word “city” for the Eagles hit “Lyin’ Eyes”, Glenn Frey was one of rock’s greatest perfectionists, and has been described as the ‘driving force’ behind the band’s success. Today we mourn the loss of one of the genre’s most prolific songwriters, and a man whose musical legacy has already stood the test of time.
Born in Detroit in 1948, Frey played in a number of bands in his hometown before moving to Los Angeles in the Sixties, where he met a young J.D. Souther. It was Souther who encouraged his then girlfriend, Linda Ronstadt, to hire Frey and the band that accompanied Ronstadt on her 1971 tour eventually became the first incarnation of the Eagles.
The following year the Eagles released their eponymous debut album, which included songs co-written by Frey such as “Take It Easy”, and others featuring his vocals including the hit “Peaceful Easy Feeling”. This album is featured as one of Rolling Stone’s ‘500 Greatest Albums of All Time’.
The usual excesses followed the Eagle’s rise to fame, with Frey describing their 1970s lifestyle as “got crazy, got drunk, got high, had girls, played music and made money’’. Confrontation was another feature of life in the Eagles, with manager Irving Azoff claiming “The Eagles talked about breaking up from the day I met them”. Frey and co-founder Don Henley were often accused of bullying, as it became clear that nothing would stand in the way of the vision they had for the band.
The Eagles reached their peak in 1976 with the release of the “Hotel California” LP. Frey is credited with writing the lyrics for this song, and it sums up the laid back, Californian soft-rock genre that the Eagles pioneered. The album’s title-track won the Grammy for the Record of the Year, one of six Grammys that the band would win over the course of their career, and the song has become synonymous with the band.
Even these successes could not resolve the tensions within the group, however, and the situation became increasingly fractious during the recording of 1979s “The Long Run”. It all came to a head during their concert at the Long Beach Arena. In his book Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (2008) guitarist Don Felder described how “we…grew angrier and began hissing at each other…he (Frey) approached me after every song to rant race, curse-and let me know how many songs remained before our fight”
Needless to say, the Eagles split. In the subsequent years Frey enjoyed an intermittent but successful solo career, and also a few acting roles, becoming the first rock star to appear on Miami Vice, for which he also penned the song “You Belong To The City”. His last solo LP “After Hours” was released in 2012.
In 1994 the Eagles reunited and enjoyed a fruitful second run that was ongoing at the time of Frey’s death. He died on Monday January 18th, following “complications from rheumatoid arthiritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia”, according to a statement from the band.
Whatever personal flaws Frey may have had, without him there would have been no Eagles, and whilst he may have left us far too soon, we can be thankful that a man who was so committed to his art has left behind such a vast body of work for us to enjoy.
RIP Glenn, Take It Easy.