It has been quite a year for musicians passing away (already) and the lion’s share of the attention went to David Bowie, not undeservedly. He was clearly an innovative, creative genius with a huge following, who will be missed immensely. Perhaps somewhat lost in the media gush, was the loss of Glenn Frey, ex-Eagles frontman and co-writer. The Eagles were the mainstay of my childhood soundtrack, as my father introduced me to their ‘Greatest Hits’ and ‘Hotel California’ albums via the stereo cabinet taking up half of our living room. The classic “Take it to the Limit” was the first song that I ever decided was my “favourite”. I was about 5 years old and we’d sing it over and over, trying to hit the high notes at the end.
The wonderful song-writing was the driving force behind some of the greatest music ever produced and it truly stands the test of time. The harmonic beauty of the vocals and simplicity of the imagery is magnificent and Glenn Frey was heavily involved in both. There are acoustic country-style hits, rip-roaring rockers and transcendent, psychedelic cautionary tales. The variety of song-writing styles is remarkable; few bands can make claim to such a collective of skill. ‘One of These Nights’ and ‘Desperado’ are a far cry from ‘Hotel California’ and ‘Victim of Love’, but all work incredibly well in their own way.
The earlier Eagles music was simple, melodic and easy to listen to; mostly without too much in the way of social commentary. However, the later tunes were fully tuned to the desecration of modern society, via the metaphorical 1970’s excess-driven culture. It shows both artistic growth and a desire to say something meaningful; to make a difference. Whether through the acoustic, cowboy themes or the signature intro of ‘Hotel California’ the common thread is an unmatched sing-along quality. I know of no other band who’s songs are so amazing, so musically strong, yet so universally known almost word-for -word.
Glenn Frey was a master song-writer and musician and personally, I think ‘Hotel California’ should be much higher on Rolling Stone or any other music publication’s “Top 100 or 500” list. “Her mind is Tiffany-twisted, she’s got the Mercedes bends” is among my all-time favourite lyrics. So evocative and powerful, saying so much without saying it directly – simply beautiful song-writing. Despite all the drama of the band’s later years, Frey must be remembered as a building block and pioneer of all that came after. His music will never be forgotten and neither will he.
Rest in peace, Glenn. I hope you had a Peaceful, Easy Feeling at the end – you deserve that and so much more.
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written by Chris van Staalduinen