With the death of The Eagles’ co-founder and guitarist Glenn Frey yesterday at 67 comes the realization of the indelible influence the band had on 1970s music and culture. However, while Frey had a few hits as a solo act, such as “The Heat Is On” from Beverly Hills Cop and “You Belong to the City” from Miami Vice, it was his collaboration with Don Henley that led to the establishment of one of the biggest soft rock bands in history. Perhaps more surprisingly, the duo had none other than songbird Linda Ronstadt to thank for their collaboration and the eventual establishment of the group that became The Eagles.
Ronstadt told Billboard in 2014 that while Don Henley had sent her songs he had written, it was his drumming ability that caught her attention.
“[Producer] John Boylan… knew all the musicians, and apparently Don Henley had already sent him some songs he had written,” Ronstadt explained. “He’d heard me sing, he’d heard my records, he wanted to meet me and he came to L.A. hoping he could, and he had written some songs he hoped maybe I’d record. He sent them to John and they didn’t turn out to be good songs for me at the time, but I heard him play the drums when I was walking through the room at the Troubadour and I thought he was such a good drummer. He had country mixed with rock in a way that didn’t compromise either genre. So I said, ‘Let’s see if we can get him to play drums,’ and John went to talk to him and he said, ‘All right.'”
Glenn Frey joined her band in a similar fashion. He had been working with Ronstadt’s then-boyfriend J.D. Souther in a band called Longbranch Pennywhistle that was breaking up under amicable circumstances, and she knew that Frey could play guitar.
“Then I needed a guitar player. I couldn’t take Bernie Leadon ’cause he was working with the Flying Burrito Brothers, so I said ‘All right, I’ll get Glenn Frey. He can play really good guitar,'” she said. “I was living with J.D. Souther then, and [Frey] was J.D.’s music partner.”
Ronstadt said that it was because there was not enough money for all musicians to have their own rooms that Glenn Frey and Don Henley really got to know each other during the tour. She said that Frey would call Don Henley his “secret weapon” and at one point told Ronstadt that he and Henley were going to start a band. Ronstadt agreed that the two establishing a band sounded like a great idea, and before long, the band that became The Eagles was practicing in the living room Ronstadt shared with Souther, as it was the biggest.
Don Henley acknowledged Glenn Frey’s desire to get a band started, as well as his stubbornness, in a touching statement he released shortly after the death of his friend.
According to Entertainment Weekly, Don Henley said, “Glenn was the one who started it all. He was the spark plug, the man with the plan. 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.”
Like Frey, Don Henley also had a successful solo career with hits like “All She Wants To Do Is Dance,” “Boys of Summer,” and “The End of the Innocence.” Glenn Frey, Don Henley, and the rest of The Eagles just wrapped a two-year “History of The Eagles” tour in July, and Henley said he found it hard to believe that the man he considered like a brother was now gone.
Glenn Frey had struggled with ulcerative colitis and rheumatoid arthritis, among other medical conditions, for several years, and it was due to complications with his health that Frey ultimately died. Don Henley said that although Frey had an incredible work ethic and a boundless energy when it came to music, it was the love he had for his family that most struck him.
“He loved his wife and kids more than anything,” Don Henley said in his statement. “We are all in a state of shock, disbelief, and profound sorrow.”
[Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images]