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The Eagles

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The Eagles

Formed in 1971 by guitarist Glenn Frey (November 6, 1948, Detroit, Mich.) and drummer Don Henley (July 22, 1947, Linden, Tex.); original members also included guitarist Bernie Leadon (July 19, 1947, Minneapolis, Minn.; left band January 1976); and bass guitarist Randy Meisner (March 8, 1946, Scottsbluff, Neb.; left band in 1977); guitarist Don Felder (September 21, 1947, Topanga, Calif.) joined band in 1975; bass guitarist Timothy B. Schmit replaced Meisner in 1977; guitarist Joe Walsh (born in Cleveland, Ohio, date unknown) joined band in 1976. Band broke up in 1981, officially dissolved in 1982. Reformed in 1995. Released the album "HELL FREEZES OVER".

Time magazine introduced the Eagles to readers in 1975 as having been "conceived in the teaching of Carlos Castaneda and his ephemeral medicine man, Don Juan." As individuals they, like Don Juan, wandered (in and out of different groups including Linda Ronstadt's back-up band) until they found what guitarist Glenn Frey called their "power spot" as the Eagles. Singer-composer Jackson Browne brought the group (then made up of Frey, Bernie Leadon, Don Henley, and Randy Meisner) to the attention of impresario David Geffen, who advanced them $100,000 and sent them to Colorado to put together an act. A month later, they were signed to the newly created Asylum Records, and by the end of the decade they had become one of the top groups of the 1970s.

Combining their unique flavor of hard-rocking music with solid production, the Eagles' 1972 self-titled debut album quickly became a bestseller, staying on the charts the last seven months of the year. Browne, another Asylum artist, aided them in one of their first hits, co-authoring "Take It Easy" with Frey. The album also included successful singles "Witchy Woman" and "Peaceful, Easy Feeling." Repaying Geffen's advance with proceeds from their first three hit singles, the group went rapidly on to record another best-selling release in 1973. Desperado, considered by critics to be something of a conceptual album, cast the rock-and-rollers as Old West outlaws in songs such as "Outlaw Man" and the title track. Both songs, assessed Time, were "linked by loneliness, excess and self-destruction." Don Henley, the group's drummer, admitted, "the whole cowboy-outlaw rocker myth was a bit bogus. I don't think we really believed it; we were just trying to make an analogy. ... We were living outside the laws of normality, we were out here in L.A., things were kind of Western, and we just decided to write something about it to try to justify it to ourselves."

On the Border (1974) continued in the successful trend already begun, yielding the group's first smash single, "Best of My Love." Social commentary had begun seeping into the group's work, with the title track a thinly-disguised piece about the troubles President Richard Nixon had gotten himself into, although, assessed Henley, "we weren't old enough or mature enough to make any sense out of it then." The group was maturing rapidly, however, forced to deal with internal tensions that resulted first in creative tension, later to self-destruction. Nonetheless, by the end of the year the Eagles' three albums had been certified gold and they were on the professional rise.

The group's following two albums, One of These Nights and Hotel California, were their most successful, with hits including not only the title tracks but also "Lyin' Eyes" (which won them their first Grammy in the category of best pop vocal performance by a duo or group), "Take It to the Limit," "New Kid in Town," and "Life in the Fast Lane." "Hotel California," commonly thought to epitomize and denounce the decadence of Southern California lifestyles (of which the Eagles themselves were said to partake), became an especially popular song for the group and featured the distinctive guitar work of Joe Walsh, who replaced Leadon in the group. Henley was later to report, however, that the song was meant "in a much broader sense than a commentary about California. I was looking at American culture, and when I called that one song 'Hotel California,' I was simply using California as a microcosm for the rest of America and for the self-indulgence of our entire culture." The song garnered a Grammy in 1977 for record of the year; the same year Randy Meisner departed, his place filled by former Poco bass guitarist Tim Schmit. The group, busy in the recording studio and reluctant to endorse award shows, did not attend the Grammys. Said Frey, "I have reasonable doubt about how accurately any kind of contest or award show can portray the year in music." Nevertheless, the group was genuinely delighted by news of the award.

Over two years and $800,000 went into the group's long-awaited sixth album. The Long Run, a curious departure from the group's earlier work, had already reached double-platinum status (for sales of over two million copies) when it was shipped to stores. Hailed by Rolling Stone as promising "to be the Eagles' weirdest" record, the album included the slow ballad "I Can't Tell You Why" and such unusual titles as "Teenage Jail," "The Disco Strangler," and the college fraternity favorite "The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks." The tone of the album was described by Henley as "tongue-in-cheek cynical. Most of the humor is so dry nobody will think it's funny." One single, "Heartache Tonight," won a 1979 Grammy for best rock vocal performance by a duo or group.

The Eagles' final group before splitting up came in the form of a double-live set that included a major hit with "Seven Bridges Road" by Steve Young, and afterward, several of the members went on to lucrative solo careers. Of their success and time together, Henley told Rolling Stone, "I don't think we had any delusions that we were creating history or changing culture or anything. ... We just wanted to do the work and be good at it and be respected by our fellow songwriters."


 

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