(Photo by Mark Weiss)
“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.”-Don Henley
Glenn Frey left us way too early on Jan. 18 due to rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia, per the Eagles’ website.
Singer-songwriter and guitarist, he co-founded the Eagles with Don Henley after their first tour backing up Linda Ronstadt in 1970. From the opening chords of “Take It Easy” that was co-written with Jackson Browne, to their last one, Long Road Out Of Eden, they churned out the hits that defined an era. By the time they wrote their first song together, “Witchy Woman,” Henley-Frey were well on their way to becoming the Lennon & McCartney of the ’70s.
Combining Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter flare and a showdown of three electric guitars, they went from a countrified unit to a hard-driven rock outfit by the time Hotel California went down in 1977. They ended the decade a spent force with The Long Run.
After a 14-year hiatus they regrouped, unplugged, then regrouped again for another outstanding album in 2007, Long Road Out Of Eden, that took on the environment, politics and the new world order. The History Of The Eagles documentary put them on the map once again as they toured the world for two years, ending it this past summer on July 29 in Bossier City, Louisiana.
Frey was the heart and soul of the band, for sure. A Detroit-bred badass with a porn star mustache, he added some edgy grit to the band’s soaring harmonies. He funneled the intellectual weight of drummer Henley’s stone-eyed delivery to court jester Joe Walsh’s daredevil runs up and down the fretboard, Don Felder’s metallic thunder and bassist Timothy B. Schmit’s bottom end into one serious bawl-out affair of great rock and roll.
Original guitarist Bernie Leadon laid down the countrified licks that started it all as Randy Meisner took it to the limit. Frey played band quarterback as he took on the motley crew throughout their personnel changes, cheered them on and got the job done. He was the ringleader at party central and the glue to the band’s split personalities. At an Eagles show, they played the hits and did them well, all two and a half hours’ worth.
Frey threatened to kick Don Felder’s ass after the guitarist started whining onstage at a political fundraiser and eventually did kick him out of the band. Bernie Leadon poured a can of beer over his head in a fit of anger then left the band. Frey was an original. He pissed people off with a no-nonsense style as he demanded the best from his bandmates. It’s all documented in the band’s warts and all, tell-all film, History Of The Eagles.
He acted in Miami Vice, providing the 1985 hit “Smuggler’s Blues” to the soundtrack, and played a sleazy sports agent in the 1996 Cameron Crowe film, Jerry Maguire. Part-time hippie, No Fun Aloud party boy and sentimental crooner on his 2012 solo album, After Hours, but ultimately rock and roll outlaw, Frey wore more hats than a coat rack. His solo on “I Can’t Tell You Why” showcased an earthy, bluesy style as he made his guitar weep.
The Eagles’ organization was always incredibly generous to this paper and I reviewed them numerous times at shows in Atlantic City, Giants Stadium and the Garden. Watching him pacing the stage in high-top sneakers then banging out the ferocious and twisted leads ending “Hotel California” with Joe Walsh and Steuart Smith at the newly reconstructed Giants Stadium is something I will never forget.
I met him briefly at the Waldorf Astoria at a benefit for the Silver Lining Foundation in January 2001, where he provided the evening’s entertainment. I was shooting the red carpet and saw Frey hanging at the bar. I discreetly unclipped the velvet rope separating us from them, shook his hand, thanked him for the music and asked him to sign my Hotel California album. He said, “Sure, man!” It’s on my wall.
Take it easy, Glenn…