So often now, we learn of the death of a major pop star via website or social media, it was no exception for Glenn Frey, one of the founding members of the one of the biggest selling rock bands of all time, the Eagles. The band posted a statement on their website which read, ‘Glenn fought a courageous battle for the past several weeks but, sadly, succumbed to complications from Rheumatoid Arthritis, Acute Ulcerative Colitis and Pneumonia. Words can neither describe our sorrow, nor our love and respect for all that he has given to us, his family, the music community & millions of fans worldwide’
The band formed in 1971 with the four original members being Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon. It began when Linda Ronstadt and her then-manager John Boylan interviewed two local musicians – Frey and Henley – to be in Linda’s backing band. They passed the audition and they then brought in Meisner, who had been a member of Ricky Nelson’s Stone Canyon band and Leadon who had been with The Flying Burrito Brothers.
David Geffen had just formed his new Asylum Records and Henley asked Linda if she minded if they all formed a band on their own to which she gave her blessing and they were first band signed to Geffen’s new Label – the first artist had been Jackson Browne.
Over the next nine years they had a varying line which included, at different times, Joe Walsh, Don Felder and Timothy B. Schmit and they recorded half a dozen albums; Eagles (1972), Desperado (1973), On the Border (1974), One of These Nights (1975), Hotel California (1976) and The Long Run (1979). All sold in their hundreds of thousands except Hotel California which did 32 million, but their two biggest seller was the Greatest Hits 1971-1975 which has, to date sold 42 million copies.
drummer Henley and guitarist Frey shared lead vocals duties with Frey taking the lead on Take It Easy, Tequila Sunrise, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Lyin’ Eyes, New Kid in Town and Heartache Tonight. Frey, as a member of the group had won six Grammy Awards and the band they inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
In 1980, tempers were flying too high and Frey left the band after a big falling out with Felder. They were still contracted to the record company so they released a live album which producer, Bill Szymczyk recalled, “We were fixing three-part harmonies courtesy of Federal Express across opposite coasts.” Each member pursued solo career, some more successful than other.
Henley and Frey had good solo careers, Henley’s biggest achievement was the hit The Boys of Summer which reached number 12 twice in the UK and Frey’s biggest successes were the song that featured in films; The Heat Is On from the Beverly Hills Cop, You Belong to the City and Smuggler’s Blues from the Miami Vice soundtrack, Flip City to the Ghostbusters II and Part of Me, Part of You to the soundtrack for Thelma & Louise.
Throughout the eighties the member were regularly asked if and when the Eagles would be getting back together and all denied they would with Henley often issuing the statement, ‘When Hell freezes over’, but in 1994 the country singer Travis Tritt did a cover of Take It Easy and approached the band to appear, as the Eagles, in the video in a 1979 line-up, they agreed and so Frey, Henley, Walsh, Felder, and Schmit and reformed and at their first live show, Frey announced to an excited crowd, “For the record, we never broke up, we just took a 14-year vacation.” Their come-back album was called Hell Freezes Over.
Felder was fired in the early 2000s and various lawsuits ensued between Felder, Henley and Frey with Felder seeking $50 million in damages for wrongful dismissal and breach of contract. Meanwhile Felder wrote the book Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974–2001) in which he gave a warts ‘n’ all account. Henley countersued Felder breach of contract and the entire print run was recalled for Henley to get involved with amendments.
The band won a huge amount of awards over the year and the latest was to be in December 2015 when the group was picked the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors which were meant to be held on 6th December but were postponed due to Frey’s poor health. Frey will never receive that awards as he died on 18th January 2016.
Don Henley paid an amazing tribute which read; “He was like a brother to me; we were family, and like most families, there was some dysfunction. But, the bond we forged 45 years ago was never broken, even during the 14 years that the Eagles were dissolved. We were two young men who made the pilgrimage to Los Angeles with the same dream: to make our mark in the music industry — and with perseverance, a deep love of music, our alliance with other great musicians and our manager, Irving Azoff, we built something that has lasted longer than anyone could have dreamed. But, Glenn was the one who started it all. He was the spark plug, the man with the plan. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of popular music and a work ethic that wouldn’t quit. He was funny, bull-headed, mercurial, generous, deeply talented and driven. He loved is wife and kids more than anything. We are all in a state of shock, disbelief and profound sorrow. We brought our two-year ‘History of the Eagles Tour’ to a triumphant close at the end of July and now he is gone. I’m not sure I believe in fate, but I know that crossing paths with Glenn Lewis Frey in 1970 changed my life forever, and it eventually had an impact on the lives of millions of other people all over the planet. It will be very strange going forward in a world without him in it. But, I will be grateful, every day that he was in my life. Rest in peace, my brother. You did what you set out to do, and then some.”