I heard it on the radio first. Glenn Frey – one of my idols whose music I revered was gone. From whatever generation we come, few of us would be unfamiliar with the moody, soulful sounds of the rock bank The Eagles. Glenn Frey, Eagles guitarist and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, passed away Monday, January 18. He was 67. “It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our comrade, Eagles founder, Glenn Frey, in New York City on Monday, January 18, 2016. Glenn fought a courageous battle for the past several weeks but, sadly, succumbed to complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia,” the Eagles wrote in a statement on Monday.
“The Frey family would like to thank everyone who joined Glenn to fight this fight and hoped and prayed for his recovery,” the statement continued. “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.”
In a separate statement, Don Henley who had a tempestuous association with Frey said, “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.”
Henley continued, “He had an encyclopedic knowledge of popular music and a work ethic that wouldn’t quit. He was funny, bullheaded, 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.”
The Detroit-born Frey performed with groups in the Motor City area before relocating to Los Angeles in the late Sixties. Frey would eventually meet and live with JD Souther — his partner in the short-lived duo Longbranch Pennywhistle — and singer-songwriter Jackson Browne. It was Souther who encouraged Linda Ronstadt, his girlfriend at the time, to hire Frey and three other artistes – drummer Don Henley, bassist Randy Meisner and guitarist Bernie Leadon – to serve as her backing band during a 1971 tour. When the trek concluded, the Eagles were born.
A year later, the Eagles’ inaugural lineup released their 1972 self-titled LP, featuring the Frey- and Browne-penned ‘Take It Easy’ and the Frey-sung ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’. Eagles, one of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, set the band on a trajectory toward being one of the biggest selling acts ever, a reputation cemented the following year with the arrival of Desperado. The latter album featured multiple hit singles co-written by Frey, including ‘Tequila Sunrise’ and the title track.
Frey also had a hand in writing the Eagles’ ‘One of These Nights’, ‘Take It to The Limit’ and ‘Lyin’ Eyes’, with the guitarist contributing lead vocals to the latter. The Eagles would reach their peak in 1976 with their landmark ‘Hotel California’, with the title track – penned by Frey, Henley and guitarist Don Felder – winning the Grammy for Record of the Year; ‘Hotel California’ and ‘Life in the Fast Lane’ (the latter written by Frey, Henley and Joe Walsh) would become classic rock staples, and the LP itself would place Number 37 on Rolling Stone’s all-time list.
In 1979, the Eagles released The Long Run, which featured the last songs they would record together until the 1994 reunion live LP Hell Freezes Over. On Long Run, Frey provided vocals on the album’s most lasting single, ‘Heartache Tonight’, while also co-writing the title track and the Timothy B. Schmit-sung ‘I Can’t Tell You Why’. The following year, a fallout between Frey and Felder ultimately resulted in the group disbanding.
As a solo artiste, Frey enjoyed a string of hits that included the Beverly Hills Cop track ‘The Heat Is On’ and ‘You Belong to the City’, a song penned for Miami Vice. ‘City’ would go on to take on a second life as a New York anthem thanks to its association with the 1986 World Series-winning New York Mets and Jay Z’s Frey-sampling ‘The City Is Mine’. Frey released five solo albums during this period, and also dabbled in acting, appearing in Miami Vice and later Jerry Maguire. That film’s director, Cameron Crowe, famously interviewed the Eagles for a 1975 Rolling Stone cover story, which would later inspire the filmmaker’s 2000 movie Almost Famous.
In 2007, an Eagles lineup of Frey, Henley, Walsh and Schmit released Long Road Out of Eden, the band’s first full-length LP since The Long Run. That was followed by a critically acclaimed documentary History of the Eagles as well as another long stretch of tour dates. In 2012, Frey released After Hours, his first solo LP in 20 years.
In addition to the Eagles’ statement – signed by Frey’s fellow band members, their management and Frey’s family – the group also shared the lyrics to Eagles’ ‘It’s Your World Now’, a Frey co-written track from their Long Road Out of Eden. ‘But first a kiss, one glass of wine / Just one more dance while there’s still time / My one last wish: someday, you’ll see /How hard I tried and how much you meant to me.”
Frey is survived by his wife Cindy and children Taylor, Deacon and Otis. Goodbye Glenn Frey – thank you for the music.