It's one of the legendary stories of the rock era. Jackson Browne came to his friend Glenn Frey for help with the second verse of a new song. All Browne could come up with was, "Well I'm a-standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona." Frey added this:
Well I'm a-standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona,
And such a fine sight to see;
It's a girl, my Lord
In a flatbed Ford,
Slowin' down to take a look at me.
The resulting song, "Take It Easy," was a work of country-rock genius. Browne made an excellent recording of it, but it was Frey--singing lead with the Eagles, that contentious band of equals--who made the classic version, and achieved immortality because of it.
Glenn Frey died a week ago at 67, suffering from so many illnesses that it was anyone's guess which one would kill him first. The documentary "History of the Eagles"--readily available on Netflix--helps explain how Frey became a physical wreck at such a young age. "It was the Seventies," Frey says at one point. "Drugs were everywhere." Along with the Hotel California lifestyle came an increasingly toxic atmosphere among the bandmates that guaranteed the band's ultimate breakup. The Eagles became something of a cautionary tale about what can happen to a band and its members.
Nevertheless, there are few bands in rock history that had as many memorable songs as The Eagles, and Frey--along with Don Henley--was the driving force of The Eagles. I know that whenever I hear "Take It Easy," "Peaceful Easy Feeling," "Take It to the Limit," "Lyin' Eyes," "Desperado," or any of a dozen other songs, I have to stop whatever I'm doing and listen. The documentary tells us a lot about Frey's early influences growing up in Detroit, the atomic effect of his first Beatles concert (including a girl falling backward into his arms), and the incredibly rich Southern California music scene of the Sixties and Seventies, where Frey came of age and found his voice.
Frey also had a strong solo career, and an acting career that encompassed "Miami Vice" and the too-little-remembered "Wiseguy." But it is his association with The Eagles that will ensure Frey remains a household name.