Glenn Frey, the co-founder of the Eagles in Los Angeles as Linda Ronstadt's backing band in 1971, died Monday in New York after suffering a number of health issues related to rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis. The band and Frey's family posted a statement just after midday on the Eagles website.
It Is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our comrade, Eagles founder, Glenn Frey, in New York City on Monday, January 18th, 2016.
Glenn fought a courageous battle for the past several weeks but, sadly, succumbed to complications from Rheumatoid Arthritis, Acute Ulcerative Colitis and Pneumonia.
The Frey family would like to thank everyone who joined Glenn to fight this fight and hoped and prayed for his recovery.
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.
Eagles co-founder Don Henley said in a statement:
We were two young men who made the pilgrimage to Los Angeles with the same dream: to make our mark in the music industry — and with perseverance, a deep love of music, our alliance with other great musicians and our manager, Irving Azoff, we built something that has lasted longer than anyone could have dreamed.
But, 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. He loved his wife and kids more than anything.
There aren't too many top bands with more certifiable Los Angeles roots than the Eagles. They came together in 1971 to serve as a backup band for Linda Ronstadt, who Glenn Frey had met at the bar of the Troubadour in West Hollywood. Ronstadt encouraged them to go out and carry the country rock banner and be big, and they were. Represented at the time by David Geffen and Irving Azoff, the Eagles sold more albums than any American band in the 1970s, with five Number One hits and five more singles in the Top 10. They broke up in 1980 and reunited in 1994, and meanwhile Frey took off on a solo recording and acting career.
Ronstadt gave a comment to Randy Lewis of the LA Times:
“When they went on tour with me, it was the first time Glenn had ever gone on the road,” Ronstadt recalled Monday. “We didn’t have enough money for everyone to have their own rooms, so the guys had to double up. That’s when Glenn and Don [Henley] started working together. When they said they wanted to form a band of their own, I thought, ‘Hot dog! Yes, you should put a band together.’ The first time I heard them sing ‘Witchy Woman,’ I knew they were going to have hits.”
From the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame bio:
The statistics on the Eagles reveal their influence as a rock and roll band. The group’s first best-of collection, Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975, is among the best-selling albums of all time, having sold more than 26 million copies. It was the first album to be certified platinum (1 million sold) by the Recording Industry Association of America, which introduced that classification in 1976. They released four consecutive Number One albums between 1975 and 1979: One of These Nights, Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975, Hotel California and The Long Run. Collectively, those four albums topped Billboard’s album chart for 27 weeks. Proving they hadn’t lost their touch, the 1994 reunion album Hell Freezes Over occupied the Number One spot for two weeks....
The Eagles formed in Los Angeles as four musicians from varied backgrounds and locales. Drummer Don Henley had migrated west from Texas with his band, Shiloh. Guitarist Glenn Frey was a rocker from Detroit who headed to Los Angeles, where he befriended fellow musicians Jackson Browne and John David Souther. Bernie Leadon, who plays a variety of stringed instruments, boasted a bluegrass background and belonged to the Flying Burrito Brothers. Bassist and high-harmony singer Randy Meisner played with such country- and folk-rock mainstays as Rick Nelson, James Taylor and Poco. After touring together in 1971 as members of Linda Ronstadt’s band, they went off on their own and were honing the repertoire of songs that would appear on their debut album, Eagles.
Last year, the Eagles were due to be feted by the Kennedy Center Honors but requested that the band's participation be delayed until Frey, who was having health problems then, could join them.
When Ronstadt was unable to travel in 2014 for her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Frey did the honors. There will be a lot of Eagles videos posted around today's news, so I'm going with Frey telling the story of the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt.
Bonus track: Carrie Underwood, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow and Stevie Nicks finish the job, with Frey accompanying at points.