Saturday, January 30, 2016


November 6, 1948-January 18, 2016

"Well, my time went so quickly/I went lickedy-splitly.."
-"Ol' 55"
music and lyrics by Tom Waits


While driving home from a movie on the early evening of Monday, January 18th, I heard the news on the radio that made me emphatically and sadly shout out loud inside of my car. Glenn Frey, singer/songwriter/musician and co-founder of the Eagles had passed away that day after enduring complications stemming from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia. He was 67 years old.

Dear readers and listeners, the passing of Glenn Frey is something that has not even fully begun to register with me, especially as I am still coming to terms with the passings of both David Bowie and Kevin Junior this month. That being said, Frey's death is by no means any less impactful. Quite honestly, his death means even more to me personally.
I do not care what anyone says but I have always and will forever love the Eagles. I do realize that the band has caught its more than fair amount of slings and arrows over time, whether for either not being "rock and roll" enough, for their polish and sheen, for their supposed and oft-criticized faux-outlaw personas, or even for their sheer ubiquity in the public's consciousness. Absolutely none of those perceptions mean a thing to me when I think of the actual music and the truth of their music, at least for my sensibilities, cannot be debated or disqualified.

Under the direction of Glenn Frey's leadership, the Eagles amassed a rock solid discography with not one bad album in the bunch and one undisputed top-to-bottom masterpiece with "Hotel California" (released December 8, 1976). The band contained a line-up of superior musicians whose pristine vocal harmonies could have given The Beach Boys a serious run for their money. Believe me, many of their songs are some of the most beautifully sung songs that I have ever heard in my life. And while he wisely and rightfully placed Eagles bandmate/drummer Don Henley at the forefront with his emotive, rugged and soulful vocals, as a singer, Glenn Frey had a voice that was as clear as the cleanest blue skies.

As for Glenn Frey, as writer or co-writer of material including "Take It Easy," "Peaceful Easy Feeling," "Lyin' Eyes," "New Kid In Town," "Desperado," "One Of These Nights," "Heartache Tonight," "Tequila Sunrise," "I Can't Tell You Why," as well as the aforementioned epics like "Hotel California" and "The Last Resort," among many others, he created not only a songbook that I would argue supplied a certain blueprint for what is now considered to be "Americana" music, the amalgamation of pop, soul, rock and country. Frey was at the forefront of creating undeniably timeless material that transcends generations. Going even further, the timeless nature of the music Frey created with the Eagles cannot be over-stated as these are songs that absolutely everybody knows! What I mean by that is I believe that you know these songs so well and so completely that one does not have to even know who the Eagles are in order to know these songs. The music that Glenn Frey had a hand in creating has long become part of our culture, and our soundscape. These songs are part of the atmosphere.
It is almost immeasurable to quantify what the Eagles have meant to my life as they have essentially been present to the point of being a fixture for as long as I am able to remember. They were part of my formative years, ever present through childhood, adolescence, college and adulthood. And when I think of them, I guess what they mean the most to me is how they brought every member of my family together as the power and grace of their music served as the tightest of connective tissue.
Certainly, that album cover is instantly recognizable. The Eagles' first compilation album "Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975" (released February 17, 1976), the album that sits just behind Michael Jackson's "Thriller" at #2 for the highest selling albums of all time, is the very album that was a constant inside of the family car. Whether driving around Chicago and more importantly, when taking long car trips from Illinois to Kentucky each year, this album would sit proudly inside of the vehicle 8 track player and my parents and I--and sometimes some cousins along for the ride--would be so happily embraced by every single song.

This is no small feat. While my family has always embraced the arts and especially music, our personal tastes are wide and often do not intersect. My Father's adoration is jazz while my Mother's could voyage between R&B, show tunes, gospel or even opera. My cousin Adam's devotion was to the funk while his sister Susan's was more eclectic. But with the Eagles, all of us snapped together in harmony as there was not one song we disagreed upon. Not very much music throughout my life as able to perform such a communal accomplishment but (aside from The Jackson 5), the Eagles were one of the first and undeniably one of the very best. If that is not "rock and roll" enough for some of you out there, that's fine. Because who cares about rock and roll purity when an entire family can be lost and found together in song and harmony? This is what Glenn Frey gave to me.
Going back to the family car, I am unable to relinquish images on long stretches of endless highways and the sights seen when driving across America without hearing the music of the Eagles as the soundtrack. They are lushly inseparable and blissfully indistinguishable from each other as the land, the Earth, the plains, the farm  houses and animals, the gas stations and rest stops, the clouds, weather and sky, and the freeways, cars and trucks all informing the music and vice versa. The music Frey created with the band was the music of movement, of travel, of voyages, of journeys and odysseys--never stationary or sedentary.

Even now, I find that when I do listen to the Eagles, I am in some throes of transportation, moving from one location to another. Mostly, now, it is an inner journey I would suppose. Growing up and growing older, thinking about the journey of my life, where I have been and where I hope to be and those beautiful songs have only increased in weight and meaning through the passages of time. They touch me in deeper places, unveiling newfound truths, sounds and emotions along the way.
"New Kid In Town," for instance is one of those blissfully arranged and sung songs in the Eagles catalog where Glenn Frey operated at peak powers. I am just unable to tell you about how many times that I either still get chills or find a tear in the eye when he gets to the line, "There's so many things you could have told her/But night after night, you're willing to hold her/Just hold her/Tears on your shoulder..." The way those vocals curl and rise stop me cold EVERY time. Those songs have been so composed, constructed, produced, arranged and performed to withstand the test of time and I have heard these songs possibly thousands upon thousands of times. They have never deteriorated in quality, or entertainment or meaning. I don't care what kind of music one may worship or which musical allegiances that may carry, but I also believe that any songwriter would kill to write songs that are able to achieve what Glenn Frey achieved with the Eagles and I would gather for some listeners through his solo material.

For me, the magic of Glenn Frey was greatest with his band. That's right. His band as even no less than a figure as mercurial as Don Henley would always attest when interviewed. Frey was the captain of the ship, the leader, and the visionary. The one who would always take it to the limit one more time, inspiring all of us to do the very same within our own lives. Like David Bowie, Glenn Frey to me felt to be as ever present as the Earth and sky, something so unmovable, something so constant, so strong and therefore something immortal. But mortal he was, as they all are and I guess that is something else to try and grasp, as difficult and as painful as it is...even our heroes have to pass onwards too. It feels almost fitting that the first members of the band to depart is the leader. Even eagles need to take their rest.

On the Eagles' final album, the double set entitled "Long Road Out Of Eden" (released October 30, 2007), the record concludes with a Glenn Frey composition on which he sings the following words of farewell:

"It's your world now
My race is run
I'm moving on
Like the setting sun
No sad goodbyes
No tears allowed
You'll be alright
It's your world now...

...It's your world now
Use well the time
Be part of something good
Leave something good behind
The curtain falls
I take my bow
That's how it's meant to be
It's your world now"

And so it is.

Rest in peace, Glenn. My dear friend, rest in peace.

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