The Eagles’ Glenn Frey, rock’n’roll great, dies aged 67 after battle with illness

Detroit native and bandmate Don Henley formed one of the best songwriting teams ever, with hits such as Hotel California

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 January, 2016, 11:12am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 January, 2016, 1:45pm

Glenn Frey, a rock ’n’ roll rebel from Detroit who co-founded the Eagles and with Don Henley became one of history’s most successful songwriting teams with such hits as Hotel California and Life in the Fast Lane, has died aged 67.

Watch Frey and the band play Hotel California

Frey died in New York on Monday of complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia, the band announced on their website. He had fought the ailments for the past several weeks, the band said.

Watch Frey and the band sing their breakthrough hit Take It Easy in 1977

“The Frey family would like to thank everyone who joined Glenn to fight this fight and hoped and prayed for his recovery,” the band said. “Words can neither describe our sorrow, nor our love and respect for all that he has given to us, his family, the music community & millions of fans worldwide.”

Frey’s health problems, including diverticulitis, dated to the 1980s. He would blame in part his years of “burgers and beer and blow and broads” and later became a fitness advocate.

Watch Glenn Frey music video The Heat Is On

Guitarist Frey and drummer Henley formed the Eagles in Los Angeles in the early 1970s, along with guitarist Bernie Leadon and bassist Randy Meisner. Their popularity grew steadily, and they embodied for many listeners the melodic Los Angeles sound despite having no native Californians in the group. Critics often dismissed them as slick and unadventurous, but their blend of mellow ballads and macho rockers, and of pop and folk and country, gave them unusually broad appeal.

An Eagles greatest-hits collection and Hotel California, both released in the 1970s, have sold more than 20 million copies each and are among the best-selling albums of modern times. The band’s total album sales top 100 million copies.

The impulsive Frey and the more cerebral Henley shared songwriting and singing duties, with Frey’s drawling tenor featured on Heartache Tonight, Already Gone and the group’s breakthrough hit, Take it Easy.

Henley said crossing paths with 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”.

Their popularity well outlasted their breakup in 1980 and the 14-year hiatus that followed. Their records remained consistent sellers, and they were a top touring act during the past 20 years even though Frey and Henley were the only remaining original members. They were joined on stage by guitarist Joe Walsh, who replaced Leadon in the mid-1970s, and bassist Timothy Schmit, who stepped in after Meisner quit in 1977.

The band were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 and were supposed to have been honoured at Washington’s Kennedy Centre last month, but the appearance was postponed because of Frey’s health. Their six Grammys include record of the year for Hotel California and best country performance by a vocal duo or group for How Long, from the 2007 album Long Road Out of Eden” another No 1 seller.

Frey had occasional success as a solo artist, with songs including The Heat Is On, a hit from the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack.

Frey, known for his oversized jaw, big grin and wavy dark hair, loved music, girls and the rock ’n’ roll life. He was playing in bands as a teenager, with fellow Detroit musician Bob Seger among his early friends, and would meet up with Henley, Meisner and Leadon while all were trying to catch on in the Los Angeles music scene. For a time the four backed Linda Ronstadt, and other musicians they came to know were Jackson Browne, who wrote most of Take it Easy.

That track from 1972 defined their early image as mellow, country-influenced musicians, but they soon desired a harder, more straightforward rock sound. Hotel California was their creative peak, the title song a long and intricate rocker that captured the decadence of mid-’70s Los Angeles as unforgettably as Take it Easy stood for a more laid-back time.

The bandmates harmonised memorably on stage and on record, but fought often otherwise. Frey

and Henley became estranged for years, their breach a key reason the band stayed apart in the 1980s. Henley had vowed the Eagles would reunite only when “hell freezes over”, which became the name of the 1994 album they had never imagined making.

“The bond we forged 45 years ago was never broken, even during the 14 years that the Eagles were dissolved,” Henley said on Monday. “Glenn was the one who started it all. He was the spark plug, the man with the plan. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of popular music and a work ethic that wouldn’t quit. He was funny, bullheaded, mercurial, generous, deeply talented and driven.”

Associated Press