Born in Detroit, Michigan on November 6, 1948, Glenn Lewis Frey was already playing music by the time he was five years old. At first, it was the piano before switching to guitar. Before co-founding the Eagles in 1970, he was in a few rock bands between his time at Dondero High School and Oakland Community College. In 1967, he and his bandmates at the time, the Mushrooms, met Bob Seger. Through him, they earned their first recording contract and produced the debut single, “Such a Lovely Child.”
Soaring with Seger
In 1967, Frey intended to join up with Bob Seger but this was blocked by his mother when he was caught smoking cannabis with him. However, in 1968, now at nineteen years old, this didn’t stop him from playing acoustic guitar and performing background vocals on Seger’s single, “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man.” In addition to this single, Frey’s vocals would also be heard on two other Seger singles, “Fire Lake” and “Against the Wind.”
While with Bob Seger, he was encouraged by his good friend to pursue a musical career featuring original content. It was advice Glenn Frey took to heart that would dictate his career as a recording musician. As both of these men pursued their own careers, each of them earning his own claim to fame, they not only maintained a solid friendship but also became a songwriting team further down the road as recording artists.
While in Detroit, Glenn Frey dated Joan Sliwin until she and her group, Honey Ltd., moved to Los Angeles, California in 1968. He flew there, hoping to reconnect with her. While there, Sliwin’s sister introduced him to J.D. Souther and the two formed a duo called Longbranch Pennywhistle. The two were signed to Amos Records in 1969, the same year they released their first album that featured three songs Frey wrote with Souther. It was also during this time Frey met Jackson Browne. Now as a trio, the three shared the same apartment building where Frey’s suite was situated just above Browne’s. During that time, he learned a great deal about songwriting after listening to Browne work on his own songs from below.
Flying Like Eagles
In 1971, Glenn Frey met drummer Don Henley as these two were both signed to Amos Records at that time. The two would be recruited to join Linda Ronstadt as a backup band for an upcoming tour. Part of this lineup included Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner. Along the way, circumstances had it that Frey and Henley decided to form their own band, teaming up with Meisner and Leason to form the Eagles
At first, it was Glenn Frey playing guitar and keyboards while Henley was the drummer. Leadon was a multi-instrumentalist that had a niche in guitar while Meisner was on bass. Over the course of time, the Eagles became one of the world’s best-selling groups of all time.
Fans of the Eagles will recall Frey and Henley often shared the role of lead vocalist. Not only did these two men take turns as lead vocalists, but they also co-wrote the majority of the group’s songs together. Also, in 1975, Bernie Leadon left the band and was replaced by Joe Walsh. In 1977, Randy Meisner left and was replaced by Timothy B. Schmit.
The first leg of the Eagles’ career was solid until the band officially broke up in 1980. Until 1994, both Frey and Henley continued as solo artists before the Eagles reunited. In 1994, Hell Freezes Over was an album that was recorded as part of a joke. In 1980, when the Eagles broke up, both Frey and Henley were asked if there would be any intent of playing together as a band. At that time, the answer was “when hell freezes over.”
Despite public belief, the reason behind the breakup of the Eagles was that the four men couldn’t get along. This wasn’t true. Like many bands, the need for each band member to soar with his own wings became necessary in order to further grow on personal and professional levels.
Glenn Frey’s Legacy
While with the Eagles, there were seven studio albums that were recorded and released in total. As a solo artist, Frey recorded and released five studio albums. three compilation albums, and a live album. From 1982 until 1995, he recorded and released one hit single after another. In 2009, he was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame.
When Frey teamed up with the Eagles again, the legacy of Glenn Frey continued. In 2007, Long Road Out of Eden was another album the group released before going on tour from 2008 until 2011. In May 2012, the Eagles lineup of Frey, Henley, Schmit, and Walsh were each awarded with an honorary doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music.
On July 29, 2015, Glenn Frey made his final appearance at Bossier City, Louisiana, as the Eagles ended their History of the Eagles World Tour. Since 2000, Frey had been contending with rheumatoid arthritis. The prescription he was given eventually led to colitis and pneumonia. On January 18, 2016, Frey died at the age of sixty-seven years old due to medical complications that came about due to the prescriptions that were used to treat arthritis and colitis. This death led to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Frey’s second wife, Cindy Millican, against Mount Sinai Hospital and gastroenterologist Steven Itzkowitz.
The impact of Frey’s death was felt worldwide which led to a series of tributes, including Jackson Browne’s performance of “Take It Easy” during the 2016 Grammy Awards ceremony. There was also a life-sized statue that was unveiled in Winslow, Arizona at its infamous Standin’ on the Corner Park. Fans of Glen Frey and the Eagles will recall this location as it was referenced in what was the Eagles’ first single in 1972.
Top 10 Eagles Songs Sung By Glenn Frey
#10 – Outlaw Man
Written by David Blue, “Outlaw Man” was a single that was recorded by the Eagles for their second album, Desperado. Released in 1973, Glenn Frey was the lead vocalist that performed what became a number fifty-nine hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. The western flair that went into this song wound up becoming part of a theme of an entire album that merged the worlds of country music and pop-rock together with a formula that earned double platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of America, as well as silver certification by the British Phonographic Industry.
#9 – James Dean
“James Dean” was a modest hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 at number seventy-seven. On the Canadian Top Singles Chart, it peaked as high as number fifty-six. This was a song that had Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Jackson Browne, and J.D. Souther collaborate together for the 1974 album, On the Border.
This was a song that paid homage to James Dean, the American actor whose life came to an abrupt end after dying in a car accident in 1955. The lyrics referred to his life in the fast lane that ended in tragedy at such a young age. For Frey, the idea was On the Border to feature a collection of songs that paid homage to anti-heroes. However, the album itself turned into a wild-west style recording that included “Desperado” as part of the tracklist.
#8 – Peaceful Easy Feeling
Released as a single in 1972, “Peaceful Easy Feeling” was the third song from the Eagles’ debut album. With Glenn Frey as lead vocalist, this song peaked at number twenty-two on the US Billboard Hot 100, as well as on the Canadian Adult Contemporary chart. On the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, it charted as high as number twenty. This one was written by Jack Tempchin while he was performing at folk coffee shops in San Diego, California. It became one of the group’s most popular tunes.
This song came to Tempchin while he was sleeping on the floor of the club on the night of his show. He used the back of an advertising poster as a canvas to write an early version of this song before collaborating with other musicians to complete it. When Tempchin moved to Los Angeles, this song was performed with Glenn Frey as part of the audience. He approached Tempchin with an offer to develop “Peaceful Easy Feeling” even further. As a result, this progressive mix of country and pop quickly became a favorite that became a favorite song of choice not just for the Eagles, but a series of other recording artists such as Vince Gill. Gill, who is now a member of the Eagles as of 2017, continues Frey’s legacy as he performs and tours with the surviving members of the Eagles, Henley, Schmit, and Walsh.
#7 – Tequila Sunrise
1973’s “Tequila Sunrise” came from the Eagles’ second studio album, Desperado. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked as high as number sixty-four. Since then, it has become one of the group’s signature tunes with Glenn Frey as the lead vocalist. For Frey and Don Henley, since the songs from the debut album didn’t feature any material the two wrote together, it was decided this would not be the case for the Eagles second recording. The first week of their collaboration as songwriters produced “Tequila Sunrise” and “Desperado.”
Roy Orbison was credited as an influential trigger that saw a guitar riff manifest into what would be featured with a Mexican twist for “Tequila Sunrise.” The song itself mentioned the popular beverage as a shot of instant courage that would normally take a shy person to become more open and social. On the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, “Tequila Sunrise” was more popular at number twenty-six. Over the course of time, “Tequila Sunrise” became an easy-listening favorite that became even more popular. Like finely aged wine, “Tequila Sunrise” became a savory classic that would see it covered many times over by a number of recording artists.
This includes Alan Jackson as his country version released in 1993 for the tribute album, Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles became a number sixty-four hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
#6 – Already Gone
“Already Gone” was a single that became a number twelve hit on the Canadian Singles Chart, as well as a number thirty-two hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. This was the first of three singles released from the Eagles’ third studio album, On the Border. This was a song that was written by Jack Tempchin before he taped it and sent it to the group. He previously wrote “Peaceful Easy Feeling” before Frey perfected it and had that released as a single in 1972. Released in 1974, “Already Gone” featured Glenn Frey as the lead vocalist a song informing his love interest he was already on the road to a new life without her.
As one of the harder rocking numbers from the Eagles, “Already Gone” demonstrated how well the four-man band performed together in perfect harmony. It didn’t take long for this song to become a staple among several rock stations. Even as the years go by, “Already Gone” remains a solid favorite among classic rock fans.
#5 – New Kid in Town
From the 1976 album, Hotel California, “New Kid in Town” became a number-one hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 and the Canada Top Singles chart. It also won a Grammy Award for Best Vocal Arrangement for Two or More Voices. With Glenn Frey as the lead vocalist, Don Henley sang the main harmony. This was the first hit single that would feature Joe Walsh in the lineup as he replaced Bernie Leadon. The Mexican flair of this tune came from Randy Meisner’s performance on the guitarron Mexicano while Dan Felder played the electric guitar. Walsh was the man behind the organ and piano for a song that became a smoky fan favorite.
“New Kid in Town” became another crossover hit for the Eagles, thanks to a hint of country that was mixed into this easy-listening tune. On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, it peaked as high as number forty-three. On a global scale, this is one of the band’s most popular songs ever released. It was at least a top twenty hit among the nations of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, and the U.K.
The original inspiration behind “New Kid in Town” came from songwriter J.D. Souther. For him, the fascination of some new kid riding into town like a rebellious cowboy served as a good platform to turn into a song. When he approached Frey and Henley, they recognized this song as a potential hit. And, as fate would have it, they were right.
#4 – Take It To the Limit
On March 7, 2009, I was at the Eagles concert in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I recall Glenn Frey on the piano and making a comical mention of a song he was about to perform that best described a former wife when it came to credit cards. “Take It To the Limit” has since been a song that remains a personal favorite as sung by Frey. It wasn’t the song itself but how each member of the band shared bits and pieces of their lives while in concert. Of all the concerts I’ve been to, this one sits on top as the best one I’ve ever been to. And I’ve been to many.
In 1976, “Take It to the Limit” peaked at number twenty-five on the US Billboard Hot 100. It also became a number twelve hit on the UK Singles Chart. Although Frey made the joke about the ex and credit cards, the actual meaning behind the song was making the most out of life without going overboard. According to Meisner, he often wrote music that would start off with a few lines before Frey and Henley would help fill in the blanks.
It was actually Meisner who first sang lead on it before leaving the band and Frey took over. For Meisner, his reluctance to perform this song in concert was blamed as the direct reason why he parted ways with the group. The reason for Meisner’s reluctance was his struggle to hit the crucial high notes that won over the fans. “Take It To the Limit” was a rare song that didn’t have Frey or Henley as the lead vocalist, making this one of the most unique singles coming from the Eagles.
Right before Randy Meisner left and was replaced by Timothy B. Schmit, Bernie Leadon also left the Eagles and was replaced by Joe Walsh. Since then, Frey took the mantle to lead “Take it To the Limit.” After his death, Vince Gill has since performed this song as the Eagles’ newest member of this incredible roster.
#3 – Lyin’ Eyes
Released as a single in 1975, “Lyin’ Eyes” became peaked at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100, a number three hit on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, and a number eight hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. This crossover hit also peaked within the top thirty among the nations of Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and the U.K. It was also certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry. In 1976, “Lyin’ Eyes” earned a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. This was the first Grammy for the Eagles but by no means the last.
The inspiration behind “Lyin’ Eyes” came from a restaurant visit Glenn Frey and Don Henly had. While there, the conversation about beautiful women cheating on their husbands came up. At the same time, they observed a lovely young woman sitting with an overweight wealthy man. It was at that time when they could see in the lady’s eyes how much deceit was in them while she was in that man’s presence. This was enough to trigger a song that seemed all too easy to put together for the talented songwriters.
From the album, One of These Nights, “Lyin’ Eyes” was the only song recorded on it that had Frey perform as the lead vocalist. Although he also sang lead for “After the Thrill Is Gone,” this was a shared vocal performance between himself and Henley. “Lyin’ Eyes,” as a single, was considerably shorter in length than the album version as the second verse, the second chorus, and four lines from the middle of the third verse were removed.
#2 – Take It Easy
“Take It Easy” was the first single released by the Eagles, which was written by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey. The opening track from the group’s self-titled debut album also became one of their signature songs. It’s also listed as one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked as high as number twelve.
Originally, Jackson Browne began writing “Take It Easy” in 1971 which was meant for his own debut album. However, he had difficulties finishing it so he approached Glenn Frey. At the time, Frey lived in the apartment right above his own while the two lived in Echo Park, California. While it was Jackson Browne who started putting together the song, it was Frey who finished it after there was a debate about it. In the end, this became the first song for the Eagles that Jackson Browne would later record for his own album, For Everyman, in 1973. As far as Jackson Browne was concerned, the arrangement of “Take It Easy” by Frey was far superior to what he had.
Apparently, the US Billboard Hot 100 and the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart agreed as it was the Eagles’ version that became a number twelve hit. It also peaked at number eight on the Canadian Top Singles chart. The British Phonographic Industry certified “Take It Easy” with gold after it surpassed the 400,000 sales mark as a single.
The legacy of “Take It Easy” also inspired Travis Tritt to record his own version as he assembled a tribute album, Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles. This 1994 release peaked at number twenty-one on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. This also marked the year the Eagles would come together as a band, picking up where they left off in 1980.
# 1 – Heartache Tonight
If there was that one song that stands out as an Eagles hallmark, “Heartache Tonight” would be it. With Glenn Frey as the lead singer, this cult classic first became a number-one hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 after it was released in 1979. From the album, The Long Run, “Heartache Tonight” became certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America after reaching the one million copies sold mark. It was also the final number-one hit released by the Eagles on the Hot 100. On a global scale, “Heartache Tonight” was at least a top twenty hit among the nations of Australia, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Switzerland. In Belgium, it peaked at number twenty-two and on the UK Singles Chart at number forty.
From the opening jam and clean to the drum beats at the end, “Heartache Tonight” was an electrified hit that could easily take a sleepy audience and spring them to their feet. This was a rompin’, stompin’ favorite that rocked the fans like no other. The handclapping in the song was among the highlights that still has this song remain a youthful favorite for fans of all ages.
Again speaking on a personal note, when I was growing up in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, I was a fan of Stampede Wrestling. Before Brian Pillman moved up to join World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), he teamed with Bruce Hart (brother of the WWE legend Brett Hart). “Heartache Tonight” was their intro song whenever they competed as a tag team. They weren’t the first, nor the last, to use “Heartache Tonight” as a popular tune used at sports-related events.
The inspiration behind “Heartache Tonight” came while listening to songs by Sam Cooke as Frey and J.D. Souther wrote out the first verse. When Frey phoned Bob Seger and sang the verse to him, Seger sang out the chorus. The genius behind the legends who put this song together resulted in a 1980 Grammy Award win for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
Top 10 Eagles Songs Sung By Glen Frey article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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