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Glenn Frey of the Eagles dead at 67

18

January

Glenn Frey never cut a sympathetic figure.

Like his Eagles bandmate and fellow singer-songwriter Don Henley, he was often described — occasionally by his own bandmates — as arrogant, greedy, controlling, callous and perfectionist.

Perhaps this is why the Eagles — despite being one of the best-selling groups of all time, and the best-selling American band ever — never captured the public’s imagination in the same way as peers like Fleetwood Mac or Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

That's unfair, because along with Henley, Frey -- who died Monday at 67 from ailments including rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia -- has a musical legacy that can match anyone's.

Along with their fellow Cali-rock contemporaries Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne and Gram Parsons, the Eagles played a massive role in the development of American country rock, particularly with their soaring, aching vocal harmonies and indelible guitar riffs.

Frey wrote or co-wrote and sang lead on many of the band's biggest hits, including Take It Easy, Lyin' Eyes, Already Gone, Tequila Sunrise and Heartache Tonight. Even when he wasn't singing lead (Hotel California, Life in the Fast Lane, Desperado, The Long Run), his name was right there in the credits as a songwriter. It's a songbook, and a legacy, few songwriters can match.

The Eagles' warm, sunny, California vibes and gently shuffling rock songs couldn't have prepared anyone for Frey's solo turn in the '80s, when he scored a couple of huge, poppy, synthy hits in The Heat Is On and You Belong To the City, plus the rocking Smuggler's Blues. He also acted on TV (Miami Vice) and in films (Jerry Maguire).

That a slicker Hollywood lifestyle seemed to come so easily to Frey only further cemented his public image as a difficult, corporate personality. His death, unexpected though it was, is unlikely to spark the same outpouring of public adoration as the recent deaths of peers like David Bowie or Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister.

Still, the Eagles managed to put aside their differences and reunite in 1994, and had been together in one form or another ever since, giving their diehard fans from the '70s plenty of opportunities to make up for lost time.

“He was like a brother to me; we were like family, and like most families, there was some dysfunction," Henley said in a statement. “But, the bond we forged 45 years ago was never broken, even during the 14 years that the Eagles were dissolved."

Henley called Frey "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.”

And while there's likely still some love lost between Frey and some former bandmates -- the revealing 2013 documentary History of the Eagles offered plenty proof of that -- the Eagles community as a whole is mourning the loss of their co-founder and co-leader.

"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 band and Frey's family said in a statement.

In Dcember, the Eagles were due to receive a Kennedy Center Honor in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, Frey's illness forced them to ask that their honor be postponed until 2016, “when all four Eagles, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmit, can attend.”

Funny how time has the capacity to heal. Once upon a time, the band swore they’d only reunite when hell froze over. At the end, all they wanted was to be together.

-- Jay Cridlin

[Last modified: Monday, January 18, 2016 9:04pm]

    

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