NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Glenn Frey, who co-founded the Eagles and with Don Henley became one of history’s most successful songwriting teams with such hits as “Hotel California” and “Life in the Fast Lane,” has died. He was 67.
Frey died Monday in New York of complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia, according to the Eagles’ website.READ MORE: Gov. Cuomo Agrees To Attorney General James' Demand For Legal Referral To Investigate Sexual Harassment Allegations
“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 website said.
Guitarist Frey and drummer Don Henley formed the Eagles in Los Angeles in the early 1970s, along with guitarist Bernie Leadon and bassist Randy Meisner. Their popularity grew steadily, and they embodied for many listeners the melodic Los Angeles sound despite having no native Californians in the group. Critics often dismissed them as slick and unadventurous, but their blend of mellow ballads and macho rockers, and of pop and folk and country, gave them unusually broad appeal.
An Eagles greatest-hits collection and “Hotel California,” both released in the 1970s, have sold more than 20 million copies each and are among the best-selling albums of modern times. The band’s total album sales top 100 million copies.
The Eagles’ many hit singles include “The Best of My Love,” “Desperado,” “One of These Nights” and “The Long Run.” The impulsive Frey and the more cerebral Henley shared songwriting and singing duties, with Frey’s drawling tenor featured on “Heartache Tonight,” “Already Gone” and the group’s breakthrough hit, “Take it Easy.”
Their popularity well outlasted their breakup in 1980 and the 14-year hiatus that followed. Their records remained consistent sellers, and they were a top touring act over the last 20 years even though Frey and Henley were the only remaining original members. They were joined on stage by guitarist Joe Walsh, who replaced Leadon in the mid-1970s, and bassist Timothy B. Schmit, who stepped in after Meisner quit in 1977. Guitarist Don Felder was added in 1974 but was fired in 2001 amid disputes over money.
The band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 and was supposed to have been honored at the Kennedy Center last month, but the appearance was postponed because of Frey’s health. Its six Grammys include Record of the Year for “Hotel California” and best country performance by a vocal duo or group for “How Long,” from the 2007 album “Long Road Out of Eden,” another No. 1 seller.
Frey had occasional success as a solo artist, with songs including “The One You Love” and “You Belong to the City,” and careers in movies and television. He appeared on episodes of “Miami Vice” and “Nash Bridges,” both featuring his friend Don Johnson, and appeared in the film “Jerry McGuire,” directed by Cameron Crowe, who had befriended him after he interviewed the Eagles for Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s. Frey’s “The Heat Is On” was a hit from the “Beverly Hills Cop” soundtrack, and his “Smuggler’s Blues” inspired a “Miami Vice” episode of the same name.
A Showtime documentary, “The History of the Eagles,” aired in 2013. Last summer, the group completed a two-year “History of the Eagles” tour.
Frey, known for his oversized jaw, big grin and wavy dark hair, loved music, girls and the rock ‘n’ roll life. He was playing in bands as a teenager, with fellow Detroit musician Bob Seger among his early friends, and would meet up with Henley, Meisner and Leadon while all were trying to catch on in the Los Angeles music scene. For a time the four backed Linda Ronstadt, and other musicians they came to know were Jackson Browne, who wrote most of “Take it Easy,” and J.D. Souther, who collaborated on “New Kid in Town” and other songs.
Anyone around them at the time knew they were determined to make it and make it big. The Eagles’ personnel, sound and overall direction would change often in the ’70s as they adapted to the changes of the decade itself. “Take it Easy,” released in 1972, defined their early image as mellow, country-influenced musicians, but they soon desired a harder, more straightforward rock sound. They added Felder, whose work was featured on “Already Gone” and other uptempo songs. When a frustrated Leadon, a bluegrass picker, quit in 1975, they brought in Walsh, one of music’s wildest and loudest performers.
“Hotel California” was their creative peak, the title song a long and intricate rocker that captured the decadence of mid-’70s Los Angeles as unforgettably as “Take it Easy” stood for a more laid-back time. It was the ultimate collaboration between Henley and Frey, with Henley singing lead and sketching the story of the hotel where “you can check out anytime, but you can never leave” and Frey filling such conversational touches as “livin’ it up at the Hotel California.” Frey sang lead on “New Kid in Town” and picked up on an expression, uttered by his drug dealer, that became an Eagles song and popular catchphrase, “Life in the Fast Lane.”
The bandmates harmonized memorably on stage and on record but fought often otherwise. Felder would remember first playing with them and wondering even then if they would break up. Leadon and Meisner departed after run-ins with Frey. The band’s initial breakup in 1980 happened after Felder and Frey nearly came to blows after a concert in Long Beach, California. They would ruefully call the show “Long Night at Wrong Beach.”
Frey and Henley also became estranged for years, their breach a key reason the band stayed apart in the 1980s. Henley had vowed the Eagles would reunite only when “hell freezes over,” which became the name of the 1994 album they had never imagined making.
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“The Eagles were Don Henley and Glenn Frey. They were the heart of the band, the core of it, and all the other members who came and went were considered by those two as hired hands,” Marc Eliot, who wrote “To the Limit: The Untold Story of the Eagles” told WCBS 880. “The real creative thrust of the band — it was like Lennon and McCartney. It was Frey and Henley.”
As 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported, Bleecker Street Records manager Peter Kaye said Frey, to quote an Eagles song title, brought a “peaceful, easy feeling” to the band’s music.
“Everybody remembers Don Henley. He was kind of more serious. But Glenn Frey, I always thought, had a little humor and a little lightheartedness,” Kaye said.
Henley released a statement on Frey’s passing:
“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, bullheaded, mercurial, generous, deeply talented and driven. He loved his wife and kids more than anything.READ MORE: Jersey City Police Investigating Fatal Shooting At Shopping Center
“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.”
An assortment of notable people tweeted condolences late Monday, from Ringo Starr and Brian Wilson to Bette Midler and Tim McGraw.
Frey was born in Detroit and was raised in the suburbs. His solo hits include “The Heat Is On” and “Smuggler’s Blues.”
Frey’s death comes eight days after another rock icon, David Bowie, died of cancer.MORE NEWS: COVID Vaccine: Johnson & Johnson Shots Expected This Week, Fauci Urges Americans Not To Be Discouraged By Efficacy
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