An Eagle flies...
It is very unsettling to go through one’s contact list and see the names of so many friends and colleagues that are no longer with us. I understand that it’s inevitable as we get older, but I guess I’m not ready for my generation to start checking out quite yet. Way too many people my age or just a few years older have left us recently, and my own mortality has been not-so-gently smacking me in the face.
Glenn Frey of the Eagles wrote, played, and sang many of the songs that were on the biggest selling album of the 20th century (and the 2nd biggest selling album of all time behind only Michael Jackson’s Thriller). The Eagles music has been a huge part of the soundtrack of my life, ever since I played “Take it Easy” as a “make it or break it” on my first Top-40 radio gig at WIRL in Peoria in 1972. As I recall, the listeners voted to “make it” that night – which turned out to be a good call, I would say.
I first met Glenn at one of the Eagles legendary “Third Encore” parties after a show in Philadelphia in November, 1979. I remember being there at the Warwick hotel, barely. I’m not sure if Glenn even knew he was there. It was the 70s. It was the tour where Joe Walsh carried his chain saw on tour in a road case. We somehow all survived to tell the tale.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Glenn for the first time on my nationally syndicated show in 1988, during the 14 year period when the Eagles had broken up, (waiting for “hell to freeze over”.) Over the years I’ve likely seen the Eagles in concert more than any other artist with the possible exception of Springsteen, and have never let a copy of Hotel California be too far away at any moment. A dear friend and former management client of mine has been part of the Eagles touring band since they re-formed in 1994, so I’ve had privileged access over the last 20+ years (when their popularity has stunningly been even bigger than their 70s heyday.)
The Eagles continued to fill stadiums around the world for one simple reason – they created an amazing body of work, based on meticulous songwriting. Their catalog is one of the deepest in popular music history, and few artists have ever had so many songs that have endured so long and become part of the cultural lexicon – “standards” of the pop era, if you will. I’ll admit that most of the Eagles’ songs that touched me deeply were the “Henley” songs, but Don himself would admit that without Glenn’s drive for perfection, his relentless work ethic, and his endless energy, those songs would not have been the flawless gems they turned out to be. The first song they wrote together, by the way, was “Desperado”, not a bad start.
I last saw Glenn backstage at a show in Eugene, Oregon last May. They were near the end of the two year-long “History of the Eagles” tour, and were in amazingly the best form ever. At the time no one thought the tour was ever going to end, and I never imagined it was the last time I would see the Eagles. I find it hard to grasp that there will never be another Eagles show. Their work has meant so much to me, their songs changed my life. I said that to Henley when I saw him backstage in Portland in 2014. His response - “those songs changed my life too!”…
I’m still reeling from the news of Glenn’s death yesterday. I’ve re-watched the History of the Eagles documentary (which I highly recommend, if you haven’t seen it), and have my Spotify Ultimate-Eagles mix playing on endless repeat. We've lost a lot of great ones recently. This one touched me deeply. Thank you Glenn for your kindness and graciousness, and for leaving us these beautifully crafted songs. Rest in peace.