Tragically, Glenn Frey one of the founders of the classic rock band the Eagles, passed away today. Another great loss to the music community at large, another hole left by an individual who, to a lot of people, is an irreplaceable talent and performer.
“Glenn was the one who started it all,” Don Henley wrote upon hearing of Frey’s death on Monday. “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.”
(Above: Frey (right) and Henley)
Frey represented a very small group of musicians that found terrific success in a couple of records – he had one of the biggest selling records of his era, ‘Hotel California’ along with one of the best selling U.S records of all time ‘Their Greatest Hits’ selling a total of 150 million records worldwide.
His life in music began with a group known as the Subterraneans, named after Jack Kerouac’s novel, which he formed with some of his fellow college graduates – the Class of 66 – followed by various musical projects with the Mushrooms, and the Four Of Us. He then went onto work with a number of different musicians; his first recording was guitar and backing vocals with Bob Seger, who he then went onto with work several times over the course of his life.
(Above: David Geffen in the 1960’s)
When Frey moved to LA he formed a band known as Longbrand Pennywhistle with JD Souther, in turn they became acquainted with songwriter Jackson Browne (from whom Frey is alleged to have begun to understand the fundamentals of songwriting), drummer Don Henley and Linda Ronstadt.
Ronstadt picked out Henley and Frey along with Bernie Leadon & Randy Meisner to play in her backing band for a gig on the advice of her boyfriend, JD Souther, with whom Frey lived. Frey also became acquainted with David Geffen, who later went onto sign them to his label Asylum once they had become established as the band we all know: the Eagles.
(Above: Henley, Meisner, Frey)
Although typified by their laid back sounding, easy going music, the Eagles constituent parts were in no way as relaxed as you might assume. The band were totally determined to succeed, “We’d watched bands like Poco and the [Flying] Burrito Brothers lose their initial momentum. We were determined not to make the same mistakes. This was gonna be our best shot. Everybody had to look good, sing good, play good and write good. We wanted it all. Peer respect. AM and FM success. No 1 singles and albums, great music and a lot of money” said Frey at the time – something about this sounds an awful lot like The Beatles when they first started out, complete vision, complete drive and total perfectionism. It was this perspective, along with supreme ability and talent, which rocketed the band to the top.
It’s worth noticing Frey’s reputation as the band’s monetary front – he did the deals, he made the decisions and he aided their meteoric rise to financial success through this hard-nosed approach.
It also potentially catapulted them out of the counter-culture movement of the LA scene and into phenomenal mainstream success. Like a number of other hugely successful bands, the Eagles can be seen as a band who are to country music what The Rolling Stones were to the blues – a means of carrying the torch of a great musical tradition from one generation to another. Once you have scratched the surface, the habit is to dig further down.