There’s a good reason why the Eagles are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and that’s because they prove handily throughout their catalog that they’re quite capable of rocking out whenever the spirit so moves them. That said, they’re also a band that knows their way around a ballad, so we’ve pulled together a list of their best.
“Peaceful Easy Feeling” (1972): Given how many Eagles songs were written by the members of the band, it’s occasionally surprising to look back at the credits of the albums and see the name of an “outsider.” Songwriter Jack Tempchin isn’t much of an outsider, however, having hung out at The Troubadour during the early ‘70s. Indeed, he was truly with the in-crowd, which is how he came to be playing this song at Jackson Browne’s house one day when Glenn Frey stopped by and flipped for the track. The next thing you know, the song is not only on the Eagles’ debut album, but it’s being released as the band’s third single.
“Most of Us Are Sad” (1972): Frey surprised his band mates with this song at the end of an early rehearsal, but the version that appeared on the band’s debut album featured Randy Meisner on lead vocals. “It really does express something truthful,” Bernie Leadon told Rolling Stone, “that a lot of people probably are sad but don’t express it.”
“Desperado” (1973): This is one of those Eagles songs that actually came into existence in stages, starting when Henley started writing it in the late ‘60s. "Glenn came over to write one day, and I showed him this unfinished tune that I had been holding for so many years,” Henley explained in the liner notes for The Very Best of the Eagles. “I said, 'When I play it and sing it, I think of Ray Charles and Stephen Foster. It's really a Southern gothic thing, but we can easily make it more Western.' Glenn leapt right on it - filled in the blanks and brought structure. And that was the beginning of our songwriting partnership - that's when we became a team."
“Best of My Love” (1974): Co-written by J.D. Souther, Frey, and Henley, this track was one of only two songs that were recorded during the band’s mostly ill-fated sessions with Glyn Johns. Good thing they saved it: the song became the band’s first-ever No. 1 hit.
“Take It to the Limit” (1975): Co-written by Meisner, Frey, and Henley, this was one of those rare Eagles songs sung by someone other than the latter two songwriters that hit the Top 40. That “someone” was Meisner, who said of the song, “The line ‘take it to the limit’ was to keep trying. You reach a point in your life where you feel you’ve done everything and seen everything – it’s part of getting old. And just to take it to the limit one more time, like every day just keep punching away at it.”
“Try and Love Again” (1976): Inspired by his divorce, Meisner told Rolling Stone, ““I sat around one evening and got a little high and started playing something and thought, ‘Is this OK?’ I brought it to rehearsal, and they said, ‘That’s pretty good.’” Simple enough.
“Pretty Maids All in a Row” (1976): At last, a Joe Walsh appearance! This track from Hotel California was co-written by Walsh with Joe Vitale, who’d formerly been Walsh’s band mate in Barnstorm. Early ‘80s AOR fans will also recall that Vitale went on to have his own minor solo hit with 1981 single “Lady on the Rock.”
“Wasted Time” (1976): This string-laden number was Henley and Frey’s effort at penning their own version of a Philly soul torch song. As Frey explained in the liner notes of The Very Best of the Eagles, “I loved all the records coming out of Philadelphia at that time. I sent for some sheet music so I could learn some of those songs, and I started creating my own musical ideas with that Philly influence. Don was our Teddy Pendergrass. He could stand out there all alone and just wail. We did a big Philly-type production with strings - definitely not country rock. You're not going to find that track on a Crosby, Stills & Nash record or Beach Boys record. Don's singing abilities stretched so many of our boundaries. He could sing the phone book. It didn't matter."
READ MORE: Eagles: Don Henley's Best of the Nest
“Sad Café” (1979): Written about the aforementioned Troubadour, the club where Henley and Frey first met and became pals, this is the final song on The Long Run, the album which for more than a few years looked to be the final Eagles album, making it a very sad song indeed. But then, of course, Hell froze over, which brings us to our final track.
READ MORE: In 1994, the Eagles Made Hell Freeze Over
“Love Will Keep Us Alive” (1994): Written by former Traffic drummer Jim Capaldi, occasional Squeeze vocalist Paul Carrack, and prolific pop composer Peter Vale, this track came about when Capaldi, Carrack, Timothy B. Schmit, Don Felder, and Max Carl were contemplating forming a band together. They didn’t, however, so Schmit pitched the song to the Eagles, and the rest is history.