How Glenn Frey defined music of the 70s

The Eagles co-founder, singer and songwriter Glenn Frey mastered the mix of rock 'n' roll and country music.

(AP Photo/Peter Morrison, File)
Glenn Frey, of the the Eagles, performs at Belfast's Odyssey Arena in Northern Ireland in June 2009. Frey, who co-founded the Eagles and with Don Henley became one of history's most successful songwriting teams with such hits as "Hotel California" and "Life in the Fast Lane," died Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in New York.

As the Eagles co-founder, singer and songwriter Glenn Frey mastered the mix of rock 'n' roll and country music, and the band's hits — including "Hotel California" and "Take It Easy," both co-written by Frey — helped define the 1970s.

Frey died Monday at age 67. He was born in Detroit and formed the band with Don Henley in 1971 in Los Angeles.

Frey and Henley came from humble beginnings after playing backup to another legend, Linda Ronstadt, and later forming the Eagles when signing with David Geffen's Asylum Records. Their sound would go on to successfully blend rock and country — something that others tried but that was mastered by the Eagles. Who else has won Grammy Awards — stretched across 1975 and 2008 — in the rock, pop and country categories?

The band released some of the most popular songs of the 1970s: "Take It Easy," written by Frey and Jackson Browne, is irresistible with Frey singing lead and the band's harmonies intact, and "Hotel California," the moody soft rock track, is simply a classic.

And "Hotel California" was just one of the Eagles' tunes to peak atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart: "Heartache Tonight," ''New Kid In Town," ''One of These Nights" and "Best of My Love" also went to No. 1.

Frey and Henley wrote most of their hits and were known as one of the top songwriting teams. Two of the band's albums would go on to rank among the top-selling albums ever released: "Eagles, Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)" and 1976's "Hotel California" each sold more than 20 million copies. It's a rare feat for any artist of any genre and made the Eagles the best-selling American group of all-time.

The Los Angeles Times described the Eagles as the quintessential southern California band.

Soft and twangy, his hits as co-founder of the Eagles defined the region like the vivid colors of orange crate art had during the city's early boom years and as the Beach Boys had during the surf craze.

During the Eagles' 2014 concert at the Forum, in fact, Frey compared the legacy of two uniquely Californian bands: "The Beach Boys were pioneers. The Eagles were settlers." Which is to say, where the Beach Boys forged new sounds, the Eagles gathered up what was already there — country rock — and made it their home.

Frey's best songs with the Eagles embodied that home, best known through the golden, sun-drenched silhouettes of palm trees on the cover of its classic album "Hotel California." The dominant shade of the record sleeve is what Frey so brilliantly conveyed as "another tequila sunrise," a muted orange, the color of the last wash of daylight or dawn's first breath.

The band, however, called it quits in 1980 in dramatic fashion at a political fundraiser as threats were exchanged between band members during their performance, which was explored in the 2013 documentary "History of the Eagles." Other drama followed the group: After getting a brutal business ultimatum from Frey, Don Felder left the reunited group; guitarist Bernie Leadon poured beer over Frey's head as he exited the band; and there's bassist Randy Meisner leaving when he didn't want to sing "Take It to the Limit," his signature song.

After they disbanded, Frey recorded solo albums and achieved hits with the songs "You Belong to the City" and "The Heat Is On."

A whopping 14 years after their 1980 breakup, the Eagles were back, and they launched their "Hell Freezes Over" tour, named funnily after the band famously said it wouldn't reunite "until hell freezes over."

In 1998, the Eagles were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. A year after that, the Recording Industry Association of America named the Eagles to its list of Artists of the Century, alongside the Beatles, Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Elton John and Garth Brooks.

Henley said Frey was like a brother to him and the bond they forged 45 years ago was never broken, even during the time the Eagles were dissolved.

"We were two young men who made the pilgrimage to Los Angeles with the same dream," he said, "to make our mark in the music industry."

And that they did.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.