Glenn Frey, who co-founded the Eagles and with Don Henley became one of history’s most successful songwriting teams with such hits as “Hotel California” and “Life in the Fast Lane,” has died. The band announced Frey’s death on its Facebook page.
Frey, who was 67, died of complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia, the band said on its website. He died on Monday in New York. He had fought the ailments for the past several weeks, the band said.
“The Frey family would like to thank everyone who joined Glenn to fight this fight and hoped and prayed for his recovery,” a statement on the band’s website said. “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.”
Guitarist Frey and drummer Henley formed the Eagles in Los Angeles in the early 1970s, along with guitarist Bernie Leadon and bassist Randy Meisner. They would become a top act over the next decade, embodying the melodic California sound.
An Eagles greatest hits collection from the mid-1970s and “Hotel California” are among the best-selling albums in history.
Frey was born in Detroit and was raised in its suburbs. His solo hits include “The Heat Is On” and “Smuggler’s Blues.” The story told in the latter was adapted into an episode of “Miami Vice,” in which Frey had a role.
Frey was lead vocalist on the Eagles’ breakthrough hit, “Take It Easy,” a song mostly written by Jackson Browne that came out in 1972. His other showcases included “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” “Already Gone” and “New Kid in Town.”
Speaking exclusively to the Los Angeles Times, Eagles manager Irving Azoff said Monday, “He was always telling people, ‘When you’re in the music business, you’ve got to have your music right, and you’ve got to have your business right.’ Glenn taught me as much about business as he taught me about music. He had incredible instincts. He and Henley and I would always plot what was coming next. He wasn’t just an incredible writer, singer and musician, he also had incredibly good business instincts.”
The Eagles split up in 1980 but reunited in 1994 and were one of the world’s most popular concert acts. The band, which for years was made up of Frey, Henley, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit, was supposed to have been honored at the Kennedy Center last month. But the appearance was postponed because of Frey’s health problems.
Frey, known for his oversized jaw, big grin and blunt personality, loved music, girls and the rock ‘n' roll life. He would meet up with Henley, Meisner and Leadon while all were trying to catch on in the Los Angeles music scene, and for a time the four backed Linda Ronstadt. They also befriended such other Los Angeles-based musicians as Browne and J.D. Souther, who would collaborate on “New Kid in Town,” “Best of My Love” and other Eagles songs.
They harmonized memorably on stage and on record but fought often otherwise. Leadon and Meisner departed after run-ins with Frey, and guitarist Don Felder, who had joined the group in 1974, ended up in legal action with the Eagles.
Frey and Henley also became estranged for years, their breach a key reason the band stayed apart in the 1980s. Henley had vowed the Eagles would reunite only when “hell freezes over,” which became the name of the 1994 album they never imagined making.
Azoff said Frey had been hospitalized in New York City since Oct. 27, and although he had been scheduled to undergo intestinal surgery, he developed pneumonia and was never strong enough to go through that procedure.
The Eagles were to have been recognized with a 2015 Kennedy Center Honor in December, but in November the band requested that it be put off until “all four Eagles – Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit – can attend.”
In a statement released at that time, the Eagles said Frey had suffered a recurrence of “previous intestinal issues, which will require major surgery and a lengthy recovery period.”
Those issues date back to the 1980s, The Washington Post reported. In 1986, Frey missed a reunion concert with Henley because of an intestinal disorder. An attempt to reunite the Eagles in 1990 was put off in part because of surgery to remove part of Frey’s intestine. And in 1994, their “Hell Freezes Over” reunion tour was interrupted by Frey’s bout with diverticulitis.
Over the course of the group’s career, the Eagles have sold more than 120 million albums worldwide and won six Grammy Awards.
The Eagles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
Despite the occasional discord, Henley said Frey was like a brother to him.
“We were family, and like most families, there was some dysfunction. But, the bond we forged 45 years ago was never broken, even during the 14 years that the Eagles were dissolved,” Henley said in a statement. “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.”
Includes information from the Los Angeles Times.