[Listen to the Art of the Song interview and tribute to the late Glenn Frey here.]
“Why did this one hit you so hard?” my bride asked.
The Eagles (or just “Eagles,” if you want to be technically correct) first flew across my radar screen in 1971. I was sitting in Dr. T. Bob Davis’s dental office, hooked up to headphones and gas. “Take It Easy” came on. In my admittedly chemically altered state, I thought “This is the best thing I’ve ever heard!” and couldn’t wait to spit and rinse so I could run across the street to Medallion (now Target) and buy their album.
They quickly joined the ranks of Poco and Crosby, Stills, & Nash as the most revered purveyors of pop harmony and songcraft at the time. But unlike those others, who seemed to lose a little of their luster with each new release, the Eagles soared higher with every album, particularly after they left London studios behind and returned to L. A., where they were able to take more control of the recording process. They moved from country-rock to rock-rock without sacrificing the melodies and harmonies at which they excelled from the start.
Even after a 14-year breakup, they returned powerful and magnificent, adding fine new songs to the catalog, and performing on tour with precision indistinguishable from perfection. Their dominance of the concert stage continued right up to what would turn out to be their last outing, the wonderful History of the Eagles tour, capturing their entire career in story and song, and rendered less than totally satisfying only by the absence of Don Felder and the ailing Randy Meisner.
In a way, the Eagles were to the world of rock music what Chet Atkins was to the guitar. At times one might think, “Yeah – I could do that.” But try and copy their work, and you would quickly come to respect the finesse, craftsmanship, and perfectionism that permeated just about everything they did.
From his time spent paying dues with Bob Seger and Linda Ronstadt, to scratching out lyrics with fellow starving artist Jackson Browne, to launching a new band with Don Henley, Glenn had his eye on the prize and never seemed to waver. Listening to their music, one might say that if Henley was the soul of the Eagles, Frey was the heart.
When Buddy Holly died, baby boomers’ belief in our invulnerability, as expressed in OUR new music called rock & roll, came crashing down with him. With John Lennon’s murder, we lost not just one man, but our unwavering hope of a reconciliation that might one day lead to new Beatles’ output. With Glenn Frey, the book has closed on the Eagles, whose music has been an essential component of the soundtrack of my life – our lives – for forty years.
That’s why I care. That’s why this one hit me so hard.