Remembering Glenn Frey: A Birthday Tribute to the Alpha Eagle

Richard McCaffrey/ Michael Ochs Archive/ Getty Images
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Richard McCaffrey/ Michael Ochs Archive/ Getty Images

It's hard to imagine the Eagles would have taken flight without Glenn Frey, the visionary with big dreams and an even bigger appetite to fulfill them. Born 71 years ago, Detroit native Frey created a lasting cultural legacy by defying conventions and critics throughout his career, passing away at the age of 67 from a series of ailments, including ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis and pneumonia in January 2016.

As original Eagles guitarist Bernie Leadon professed to The Washington Post, “We wanted to be the best f***ing band there is.” 

With a compilation album that hit platinum status 38 times, The Eagles became a band of their word, holding the undefeatable title of best-selling album in America with Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 (also available on vinyl for those who indulge in a special, sweet sort of nostalgia). 

"I don’t get up every morning and say, ‘God dang! Eagles Greatest Hits is now past 30 million!’” Frey revealed to Rolling Stone. “But, you know, it boggles the mind somewhat. You just have to keep perspective. As long as I keep taking out the garbage and cleaning up after the dogs and taking the kids to school, I’ll have perspective.”

Within every dreamer is an opportunist and Frey, no doubt, was an opportunist; it was his eye for potential that enabled Frey to assemble the band in 1971. 

With the dexterity of Michaelangelo and the rugged manhood of Marlboro Man, Frey was a man of many talents as a singer, guitarist, songwriter and even actor; perhaps the greatest testament to his musical athleticism was his coach-like capacity to incubate his band’s potential and boldly chase after his dreams.

In an ironic twist of dark fate, same anthemic soft rock soothers, including “Hotel California,” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” that launched the Eagles into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with extraordinary album sales were the same masterpieces that tore the flock apart (the last straw being Long Night at Wrong Beach). The Eagles asserted a spirit of California mysticism and mythos and changed popular music - but it accordingly changed them, too. 

The band devastated an entire nation with their breakup in the 80’s, but following a 14-year hiatus, they embarked on another series of tours and albums beginning with “The Eagles: Hell Freezes Over.”

Said Henley in a statement, “I’m not sure I believe in fate, but I know that crossing paths with Glenn Lewis Frey in 1970 changed my life forever, and it eventually had an impact on the lives of millions of other people all over the planet.”

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