Remembering Glenn Frey

The following piece is written by Bob Lefsetz. I did not write it!

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Photo by Kirk West. Chicago, 1974

Glenn Frey – by Bob Lefsetz

He lived the American Dream.

You know, wherein your wits, smarts and pluck, never mind the gleam in your eye, take you from nothing to everything, in this case not only accumulating riches, but influencing the culture.

And there were those who hated him for it.

They lionize Steve Jobs. And Mark Zuckerberg. The techies that changed the world.

But they hate Glenn Frey and his flock of Eagles for being so damn successful, for worming their way into women’s hearts. And let me be clear, it’s always guys complaining about the Eagles, girls loved them. Because females are not into pecking order, not married to the past, they can embrace that which truly satisfies, casting preconceptions aside.

And the preconception was that you had to be English, with bad teeth and little education, or American and challenging cultural commandments, or else you didn’t matter. Gram Parsons might be the father of country rock, but he could never compose a song that penetrated the public consciousness to the point that radio stations could not stop playing it and none of us could ever forget it.

Like “Take It Easy.”

That acoustic guitar came out of the speaker in the dashboard and in the summer of ’72 all of America felt good. It was a different country back then, divided for sure, but we still believed we were winners, that if we put our minds to it we would come out on top. We were never gonna be here again, so we opened up and took across this great country of ours, lived life to the fullest, with the radio blasting all the while.

And despite the hit single, it was the era of album rock. So upon hearing the mellifluous tune you went out and purchased the Asylum LP and…you played it over and over again. Thirty seven minutes long, the debut had no clunkers, it begged to be heard. Take that modern music.

But the follow-up was a commercial dud. “Desperado” got no traction, not the LP nor the title track. The press had primed us for it, back when “Rolling Stone” was the bible of a generation, but without a hit single “Desperado” faded in an era where music dominated and we couldn’t afford to buy all we wanted.

And then “Best Of My Love” went to number one. Credit a deejay, who rejected the two authorized singles in favor of it. Suddenly, the Eagles owned the airwaves.

Of course Glenn would tell us they were called “Eagles,” and was unhappy that everyone appended the “the,” but he and the rest of the band were thrilled with the attention and the dough. They were rock stars. Raising funds for political candidates and partaking of the goodies that accompany the success. It’s one thing to be rich and famous, it’s another thing for it to be based on your creativity, your art. These are the people we exalt. The Eagles were at the pinnacle, especially with the following year’s “One Of These Nights,” they were a stadium act, the biggest band in the land.

And the hatred ensued.

But unlike today’s wimpy musicians, the Eagles barked back, owned their talent and success. Funny how we give Kanye a pass, despite not having made memorable music for years, but we excoriate the SoCal band that was bigger than the rest.

But no one was prepared for “Hotel California.” When you dropped the needle on the record you heard a sound foreign to the catalog. The guitars screamed and if they were big before, the Eagles were now America’s band.

It was “Life In The Fast Lane.” A term every baby boomer knows and said for decades, when they snorted coke, when they did what they should not do. The Eagles blasted open the highway and then we drove right down it.

And now Glenn Frey is gone.

I felt he would make it. It had been weeks, he’d made it through the dreaded holiday period, but then he passed.

And America was shocked.

The press didn’t know how to react. Because they had to be cool, they couldn’t attest to what data tells us, that the Eagles are the biggest American band in history.

Their “Greatest Hits” jockeys with “Thriller” for number one. And unlike so many albums of the past, it still sells. It’s not in the rearview mirror. The strange thing about the Eagles is they never went away. They inspired the country pickers and they still own the bars and the radio. That’s what you get what you’re that damn good.

And there’s no one better.

I know, I know, you’ll cite artists breaking convention, your favorite player, but the truth is writing catchy songs with meaning and singing them with exquisite harmonies is damn hard to do, it’s just that the Eagles made it look easy. Hell, half of Nashville walks in their footsteps, but no one’s done it nearly as well, and so many of those stars don’t even write their own material.

But the Eagles did. With help from J.D., Jackson and Jack Tempchin. But they weren’t guns for hire, but members of the club, a roaming group of musicians who owned the hearts and minds of America throughout the seventies, and didn’t let go thereafter.

So you’re either sad or you’re not.

But if you are…

67 is way too young. And although Don Henley had more solo success, it was Glenn’s band. He started it, he guided it. And every group needs a driving force.

So it’s the end of an era. And it’s a great loss. You’ll never be able to see the Eagles again. But if you did…

The sun would be setting behind the stage.

And at the appointed time, with no wait, they would take the stage and Glenn would say…

They were the Eagles from Southern California.

And the guitars would strum, the bass would pluck, the drums would pound and as the sound washed over you you’d become your best self.

America runs on California. That’s where the innovation begins, where you go to test limits, where there’s no ceiling on either creativity or success.

And people hate California the same way they hate the Eagles.

But what they really want to do is get on board.

And we all got on board with the Eagles. Even those who say they do not care. They only wish they were standing on that corner in Winslow, Arizona, with a girl checking them out.

In a flatbed Ford, made in Detroit. Where Glenn Frey emanated from.

But he remembered his roots.

And built upon them.

Want to be successful?

Need it. Study. Make friends. Seize opportunities.

And take no shit as you ascend into the stratosphere.

That’s what Glenn Frey did.

You cannot make a big enough deal about his death. Because what once was is now gone. Doesn’t mean we can’t create something new, but so far we haven’t  minted stars as big as those from the seventies, never mind create music as memorable.

Glenn Frey was here for the long run. He got stuck in the Hotel California and he wasn’t eager to get out. But we all meet our demise, his as a result of side effects from arthritis drugs, he just didn’t want the pain.

None of us want the pain. We’re self-medicating every day.

But years ago the music was enough. We just turned on the stereo and a smile crossed our face.

Glenn Frey took us there.

Now we don’t know where to go.

Written by Bob Lefsetz. Click for more from him.

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