The year is 1975 and a youngster in Champaign, Illinois is listening as usual to his transistor radio and WLS-AM 890, playing Top 40 hits out of Chicago. Earlier in the year, Earth Wind & Fire’s “Shining Star” had mesmerized the young man just as had the Ohio Players with “Fire” the year previously. Then, haunting guitars, sorrowful vocals and soaring harmonies emanate from the tiny speaker as The Eagles’ “One of These Nights” produces chills on its way to the #1 song in the country. I was hooked. And I was not alone.
And though Don Henley dominated the vocals on that particular tune, Royal Oak, Michigan-native Glenn Frey was its co-author and chief harmonizer on what was their 2nd of five #1 songs over a career spanning decades. As is all too common, we often and gradually forget the important role a particular artiss or artists play in our lives until they pass – in this case, quite unexpectedly and with an individual far too young (67).
If you grew up through the 70s and 80s in particular, Glenn Frey and the Eagles were likely an integral part of the soundtrack of your life. From 1972’s “Take it Easy,” which Frey co-wrote with Jackson Browne, his southern California neighbor, through 1980’s “I Can’t Tell You Why,” the band prolifically produced fifteen Top 40 singles in that twelve year span. Everyone has their favorite and wonderful memories. I also recall sitting in the lunchroom of Edison Junior High years later when the awe-inspiring guitar work of “Hotel California” came over the loudspeakers. All I could utter was, “Amazing.”
In a band that successfully merged country/western and rock like no other, Glenn Frey’s voice seemed to possess the most “country,” the songs he sang on, the most “western” of his talented bandmates. Transitioning later to a brief solo career, he channeled his inner-romantic (“The One You Love”) while also staying fun in the movies (“The Heat Is On”) and on television (“Smuggler’s Blues”) albeit with a more polished look and approach. Most recently, of course, Frey continued to build upon the Eagles legacy with critically-acclaimed tours and music.
As a friend of mine so aptly reminded me yesterday when word first started filtering out, the band in heaven just got that much better. Here, among us mere mortals, his music and its impact live on.