The Eagles: Godfathers of "New Country"

The history of these kings of California soft-rock

Perhaps no other group is more responsible for the state of Country Music in the past 20 years, but in their heyday, the Eagles were merely America's biggest band, the act which brought a classic-rock sense of scope and purpose to SoCal soft rock and whose pop smarts helped propel country-rock to platinum status. Their breakup was one of the era's ugliest, but their reputation has only grown with each passing year.

Their 1976 album Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) is the second-best selling album in American history, but you may have also heard their songs in the hit series "Entourage" and "The Sopranos, " and Jeff Bridges notoriously expresses his dislike for "Peaceful Easy Feeling" in the movie The Big Lebowski; the "Seinfeld" episode "The Checks" has a subplot where Elaine's date won't let her speak during the song "Desperado."

The Eagles' 10 biggest hits

Formed:1971 (Los Angeles, CA)

Styles Country-rock, Pop-rock, Classic Rock, Soft-rock, Country

Claims to fame:

  • The most popular American band of the '70s.
  • Did more than any band to bring country music into the rock marketplace.
  • The Don Henley-Glenn Frey songwriting team is considered one of the decade's finest.
  • Their chronicling of the decadent '70 Southern California lifestyle struck a chord with all Americans.
  • Bridged the gap between country-rock, classic rock, and soft rock.
  • Joe Walsh and Don Felder were two of the genre's finest guitarists.
  • Members form a direct line of descent from country-rock pioneers Poco, Crosby Stills & Nash, Dillard & Clark and the Flying Burrito Brothers.

    Classic Lineup

    Glenn Frey (born Glenn Lewis Frey, November 6, 1948, Detroit, MI, died Jan. 18 2016) lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, slide guitar, piano, clavinet, keyboards, harmonica.
    Don Henley (born Donald Hugh Henley, July 22, 1947, Gilmer, TX): lead and backing vocals, drums, keyboards.
    Don Felder (born Donald William Felder, September 21, 1947; Gainesville, FL) lead and backing vocals, lead guitar, slide guitar, pedal steel guitar, organ (1974-1980; 1994-2001).
    Bernie Leadon (born Bernard Mathew Leadon III, July 19, 1947, Minneapolis, MN): lead and backing vocals, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, pedal steel guitar, dobro, banjo, mandolin (1971-1975).
    Randy Meisner (born Randy Herman Meisner, March 8, 1946, Scottsbluff, NE): lead and backing vocals, bass, rhythm guitar, guitarron (1971-1977).
    Joe Walsh (born Joseph Fidler Walsh, November 20, 1947, Wichita, KS): lead and backing vocals, lead guitar, piano, electric piano, organ, keyboards (1975-1980; 1994-present).
    Timothy B. Schmit (born Timothy Bruce Schmit, October 30, 1947, Oakland, CA): lead and backing vocals, bass (1977-1980; 2007-present).

    History

    Early years

    The four original members of the Eagles came from different areas of the US in order to make their name playing country-rock in Los Angeles -- Leadon was with the Flying Burrito Brothers, Meisner was a member of Rick Nelson's Stone Canyon Band, Henley had formed a group called Shiloh, and Frey was part of a duo with J.D.

    Souther called Longbranch Pennywhistle. Henley and Frey were recruited to be part of a backing band for Linda Ronstadt, then just starting a solo career after leaving the Stone Poneys, and at one July 1971 gig at Disneyland, Leadon and Meisner sat in. When Ronstadt asked Frey to assemble musicians for her third album, titled simply Linda Ronstadt, he recruited Henley, Meisner, and Leadon; after the album was recorded. the four decided to form Eagles (sometimes called The Eagles).

    Success

    Riding the wave of country-rock just then cresting on radio, Eagles was an immediate success, buoyed by two big singles, Henley's dark "Witchy Woman" and Frey's "Take It Easy," written with songwriter Jackson Browne. The second album, Desperado, established Henley and Frey as a major songwriting team, not to mention two of the group's four impressive lead singers; for their third, 1974's On The Border, session guitarist Don Felder was brought in to add solos, and so impressed the group that he soon became a permanent member.

    By that time, however, Leadon was ready to quit, decrying the band's turn from country-rock to pop-rock; he was replaced by former James Gang guitarist Joe Walsh. After recording their landmark Hotel California in 1976, Meisner left, worn down by the pressures of their fame.

    Later years

    Timothy B. Schmit, who had replaced Meisner when he left Poco, now replaced him again. The band began recording their followup, The Long Run, in 1977, but internal pressures within the group dragged the sessions out for two years, by which time they were all at each other's throats; by the time the album came out in late '79, the band was history. Henley and Frey went on to very successful solo careers in the '80s, but refused constant offers to reunite until 1994, when Henley, Frey, Walsh< Schmidt, and Felder recorded four new songs for a live album puckishly called Hell Freezes Over. In 2007 the Eagles, once again without Leadon, released their first new album of material in 26 years, Long Road Out of Eden. The four continue to tour as the Eagles today.

    Other Eagles facts and trivia:

    • David Geffen managed the band early on.
    • Frey came up with the line "It's a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford" for Jackson Browne's "Take It Easy," then finished the rest of the song for him.
    • At various times, the Eagles collaborated on songs with Browne, Souther, Bob Seger, Leadon's brother Tom, and Ronald Reagan's daughter Patti Davis.
    • Henley and Frey can be heard singing background vocals on Randy Newman's 1974 album Good Old Boys, while Frey and Schmit sing backup on his controversial 1978 hit "Short People," and the band sings on Boz Scaggs' 1980 hit "Look What You've Done To Me."
    • "Hotel California," an extended metaphor about the decadence of Los Angeles, has often been misinterpreted as a Satanic horror story by religious groups.