Glenn Frey

Some families thrive on harmony. Then there were the Eagles.

I don’t mean musical harmony here—there was never any doubt about their ability to create enduring, sometimes unforgettable songs.In a Seinfeld episode, Elaine is shushed by her boyfriend when “Desperado” comes on the radio. I’ll bet instances like that concerning Eagles music have occurred more frequently than we’d like to believe.

But as a group they seemed to be in constant turmoil. Members left with bitterness or hard feelings, new ones arrived to have their careers rejuvenated, and the group itself seemed constantly to be calling it quits—only to coalesce and tour again.

Today we learned of Glenn Frey’s death: for him the turmoil has ended.

And turmoil or not, it ended too soon as it has for so many musicians, and so many with tangential ties to each other: Warren Zevon was 57; Dan Fogelberg, 56, Andrew Gold, 60; now Glenn Frey—dead of complications from several maladies. He was 67.

Together with Don Henley, Frey was the Eagles, though in truth he and Henley hardly ever seemed together. Viewers and fans who watched Showtime’s History of the Eagles (which has now migrated to Netflix) can hardly do so without cringing. (That didn’t keep me from watching it twice—you couldn’t argue the music these disparate souls created.)

In recent years the Eagles were more noted for exorbitant concert ticket prices than they were for any scintillating new music, but I don’t hold that against them. They could have written “Hotel California” and nothing else, and still have found a place in the annals of rock excellence.

My wife and I saw the Eagles in the early seventies, just two albums in. But that second, Desperado, that concept album about the old west replete with gunslingers and card players and broken hearts—that remains fresh and meaningful four decades later. And “Desperado” itself—especially the reprise that concludes the album—well I would have shushed Elaine too. She should have known better—maybe a moment of silence until the song finished—and tonight maybe another moment for the guy who wrote it.

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