7 Years Ago Today: The Eagles’ Glenn Frey Dies at 67
Glenn Frey carved out one of the most important careers in modern music history before his death at the age of 67. The Eagles singer, songwriter and guitarist died on Jan. 18, 2016, leaving behind a vast musical legacy.
Born in Detroit on Nov. 6, 1948, Frey grew up in Royal Oak, Mich., and he developed an early interest in music, learning piano and guitar and performing in several local groups. That brought him to the attention of Bob Seger, who became a mentor and gave Frey the chance to do his first recording sessions. That's a young Frey playing acoustic guitar and singing enthusiastic background vocals on the Seger classic "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man."
Frey then made his way to California, where he quickly became immersed in the burgeoning country-rock scene. He formed a duo called Longbranch Pennywhistle with another aspiring singer-songwriter named J.D. Souther, releasing one self-titled album in 1969 before they went their separate ways. Frey was then drafted by Linda Ronstadt to play in a new backing group that she envisioned as a group of Los Angeles country-rock "all-stars."
That's where he first met Don Henley, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner; Henley had previously played drums in a group called Shiloh, which Kenny Rogers first discovered in Dallas and brought to Los Angeles to record, Meisner had played in Rick Nelson's Stone Canyon Band, and Leadon had performed with the Flying Burrito Brothers. They ended up playing just one gig with Ronstadt before splitting off to form the Eagles, releasing their debut single, "Take It Easy," in 1972.
The group became one of the biggest superstar acts of the 1970s, releasing a long string of classic hits including "Peaceful Easy Feeling," "Best of My Love," "One of These Nights," "Lyin' Eyes," "Take It to the Limit," "New Kid in Town," "Hotel California," "Heartache Tonight" and many more that defined an entire era of American music.
Frey went on to a successful solo career after the Eagles disbanded, placing solo hits including "The Heat Is On," "You Belong to the City," "Smuggler's Blues" and more, and he also developed an acting career that included roles on Wiseguy, Miami Vice and the film Jerry Maguire. He reunited with the Eagles in 1994 and continued to tour with them until his death in 2016, which came about as a result of complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia.
Henley remembered Frey as "the one who started it all" in a statement after his death, hailing Frey's leadership and vision as the driving force of the Eagles.
“He was like a brother to me; we were family, and like most families, there was some dysfunction," Henley posted to Facebook. "But, the bond we forged 45 years ago was never broken, even during the 14 years that the Eagles were dissolved. We were two young men who made the pilgrimage to Los Angeles with the same dream: to make our mark in the music industry — and with perseverance, a deep love of music, our alliance with other great musicians and our manager, Irving Azoff, we built something that has lasted longer than anyone could have dreamed."
"He was the spark plug, the man with the plan," Henley added. "He had an encyclopedic knowledge of popular music and a work ethic that wouldn’t quit. He was funny, bullheaded, mercurial, generous, deeply talented and driven. He loved his wife and kids more than anything. We are all in a state of shock, disbelief and profound sorrow."
Henley initially indicated that Frey's death probably spelled the end of the Eagles, but in 2017, in a move that the proud father probably would have loved, Frey's son Deacon joined the Eagles in a new lineup that also includes Vince Gill, helping to carry his father's music to yet another generation of fans.
Deacon Frey announced he was departing the Eagles in April of 2022, and the band has since carried on without him, with Gill still in place singing many of Glenn Frey's old songs.