A music world already reeling from the recent passing of soul legend Natalie Cole and pop/rock legend David Bowie was hit hard once again by the sudden passing of one of the all-time greats, Mr. Glenn Frey. To say the least, Mr. Frey had an impact on the world of music. How big was that impact? As a founding member and one of the principle songwriters of the Eagles, he was among a group of 1970’s era musicians that influenced rock and country with a sound that could not and will not be replicated. His passing represents the end of an era that began with the establishment of the country-rock sound first pioneered by the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers, then taken to the masses by Linda Ronstadt, and finally elevated to indescribable commercial heights by the Eagles.
Born in Detroit, Michigan, Glenn Frey’s interest in music began early and eventually led him to working with fellow Motor City singer-songwriter, Bob Seger. After working with Mr. Seger and honing his songwriting skills, Mr. Frey relocated to Los Angeles in the 1960’s to capitalize on its burgeoning folk music scene. It was in L.A. that he would meet Don Henley, and the rest is beautiful music history. Surrounding themselves with other notable singer-songwriters as Jackson Browne and J. D. Souther, Glenn Frey and Don Henley would collaborate on some of the most successful and best-selling songs in music history. Eagles Their Greatest Hits – 1971 to 1975 and Hotel California are among the top selling albums of all time, each selling in excess of 30 million copies.
Working initially as a backing band for Linda Ronstadt, fame and fortune came to the Eagles quickly. Like it does with many bands that are young and achieve incredible fame in a short period of time, the workload and pressures of such fame can take its toll. The Eagles were no different as constant touring and recording demands led to infighting among the group. They would disband in 1980 and reunite in celebrated fashion in 1994 with the Hell Freezes Over Tour. I had the great fortune to attend two shows on this tour. In 1994 in Toronto at the old Exhibition Stadium with over 56,000 in attendance, and in 1996 at the Molson Amphitheatre, also in Toronto. The 1994 show remains the best concert I have ever attended.
What’s the significance of the passing of Glenn Frey? As I mention above, it’s the end of an era. It’s clear the Eagles as a touring band and entity will not continue. You cannot replace Glenn Frey. He was a founding member and one of the lead singers. To me, it wouldn’t be the Eagles without him, and I’m sure the other band members feel similarly. As well, the very sound of the Eagles will never be replicated. The band performed in 5-part harmony, something unheard of at the time and has not been duplicated since.
The passing of Glenn Frey, David Bowie among others represents the turning of a page, a reminder that life has moved on from our younger days. The Eagles were the soundtrack to my high school and early college days, even though the music was 20 years old at the time. It still sounds as fresh today as it did 20 years ago when I first got tuned in to them, and 40 years ago when they first hit the charts. If you are young and love music and don’t know about Glenn Frey and Don Henley, I encourage you to explore and learn about their music as solo artists and as the Eagles. If you’re in a band, explore them to see where you can go when you dedicate yourselves to hard work and perfection. It can lead you to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, an institution where the Eagles were inducted in 2002. The video below is a live clip from a 1977 concert where the Eagles perform one of their signature hits “New Kid In Town.” This is what 5 part harmony sounds like. Enjoy Glenn Frey (lead vocal), Don Henley (drums), Joe Walsh (keys), Don Felder (guitar) and Randy Meisner (bass) in this classic clip.
Friday Jan. 22 2016 The Regent Theatre in downtown Oshawa Ont. presents "Hotel California" in their ongoing series Classic Albums Live. The show starts at 8 p.m.