Glenn Frey, a founding member of the Eagles who sang and wrote many of the band’s songs and was a part-time actor, died today in New York. He was 67.
The group and his family announced his death in a statement on Facebook: “Glenn fought a courageous battle for the past several weeks but, sadly, succumbed to complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia. … 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.”
Commonly known as the Eagles but with no “the” on album covers, the group started out as Linda Ronstadt’s backup band in early-1970s Los Angeles and would become one of the world’s biggest acts. Frey wrote or co-wrote many of the group’s best-known songs including “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” “Already Gone,” “Take It Easy,” “Lyin’ Eyes” and two of the band’s five No. 1 singles: “New Kid In Town” and “Heartache Tonight.” The RIAA ranks the band ranks fifth for all-time album sales with 101 million, including 13 platinum discs. The 1976 hits compilation Their Greatest Hits (1971-75) for a while was the top-selling album in U.S. history.
Last year, the band was one of six recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors, along with George Lucas, Cicely Tyson, Rita Moreno, Carole King, and Seiji Ozawa. Frey was too ill to attend the December ceremony, so the band was to have been celebrated in 2016.
The Detroit native also had a successful solo career, scoring a pair of No. 2 pop hits culled from a movie and TV series: “The Heat Is On” from Beverly Hills Cop (1984) and “You Belong To The City” from Miami Vice (1985). His solo hit “Smuggler’s Blues” also inspired an episode of that popular NBC cop drama, with Frey playing a guitar-playing pilot who helps stars Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas break up a drug ring.
In 1993, Frey toplined South Of Sunset, a CBS crime drama that ended up airing only one episode. He played the former head of securityy for a major Hollywood studio who is fired for busting a big producer and ends up with a struggling private-eye practice in Los Angeles. He also had an arc on the CBS cop drama Wiseguy and appeared in episodes of Arli$$ and Nash Bridges.
Probably his most famous acting credit came in Best Picture Oscar nominee Jerry Maguire (1996). He played Arizona Cardinals general manager Dennis Wilburn, whose stalling tactics in re-signing receiver Rod Tidwell (Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr.) ends up costing big in the end.
But Frey will be best remembered for the Eagles, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group that began as country rockers from the L.A. scene that also produced such stars as Ronstadt, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne — and a budding mogul named David Geffen. Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner formed the Eagles after backing Ronstadt on her 1971 tour. The group’s 1972 debut LP featured such now-classic tracks as “Take It Easy,” “Witchy Woman” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and reached the U.S. top 25. They followed with Desperado (1973) and On The Border (1974), the latter of which spawned their first No. 1 single, “Best Of My Love” and also featured “Already Gone” and “James Dean.”
Solidified as hitmakers, the Eagles went through the roof with their next album. One Of These Nights spent five weeks at No. 1 and was nominated for the Album of the Year Grammy. It produced three top 5 singles in the No. 1 title track along with Lyin’ Eyes — which earned the group a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal — and “Take It To The Limit.” Leadon was replaced by solo act and ex-James Gang leader Joe Walsh, the result was 1976’s Hotel California, an out-of-the-box smash that helped fuel the rise of the mega-album in the 1970s. It spent eight weeks at No. 1, produced two chart-topping singles and is among the 20 biggest-selling albums in U.S. history at 16 million-plus units. Steeped in stories about the less-glamorous side of life in the SoCal fast lane, it features such classics as the title track, “New Kid In Town,” “Life In The Fast Land” and the haunting “The Last Resort.”
The group’s fortunes continued with 1979’s The Long Run, which hogged the top spot for nine weeks and threw three more singles into the top 10 including their final No. 1, “Heartache Tonight.” The set is certified seven times platinum.
But despite all the public accolades, critics famously frowned on the group. In 1980, beset by long-simmering inner-band turmoil, the Eagles split up, leaving the double-LP Eagles Live as a parting gift. Frey and Henley’s animosity simmered for more than a decade before hell froze over.
What began as a one-off MTV special became Hell Freezes Over, the cheekily titled 1994 album of four new Eagles songs and 11 live tracks. Its success spurred a two-year reunion tour with The Long Run lineup of Frey, Henley, Felder, Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit that kicked off at the old Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre in Orance County. The group had been touring for most of the ensuing 20 years, also releasing 2007’s Long Road Out Of Eden, which topped album charts in more than a dozen countries including the U.S. and UK.
In January 2013, Part 1 of four-hour documentary History Of The Eagles, produced by Oscar winner Alex Gibney, premiered at Sundance. The group then embarked on what would be Frey’s last full tour with the band. Two years ago this week, the Eagles rechristened the Forum in Inglewood with the first of several nights at the renovated arena. In 2007, they headlined the first six shows at the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles (now the Microsoft Theater). In April 2014, Frey gave Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech for Ronstadt.