The Eagles’ seminal Hotel California could just as easily have been called Hotel Fontainebleau, Hotel Biltmore, or Hotel Eden Roc.
Glenn Frey, one of Hotel California’s three composers, along with Don Henley and former guitarist Don Felder, chose California because, with the exception of the Beach Boys, the Eagles were the quintessential California band. Ironically, none of the original four members were from California. Frey was born in Detroit on Nov. 6, 1948.
But Miami was where Hotel California took shape. In fact, the three final Eagles albums of the 1970s that catapulted the musicians to become the best-selling American band of all time — One of These Nights (1975), Hotel California (1976) and The Long Run (1979) — were all recorded at Coconut Grove’s former Bayshore Recording Studio and North Miami’s Criteria Studios.
Frey died Monday in New York at age 67, the group’s website reported.
Henley said the 6 1/2-minute Hotel California was a microcosm about the hedonism in the country at the time. “It’s basically a song about the dark underbelly of the American dream and about excess in America, which is something we knew a lot about,” he has told interviewers.
California fit. But so could have Miami. Frey’s 1984 solo single Smuggler’s Blues, about the local drug trade (“They move it through Miami, they sell it in L.A./They hide it up in Telluride, I mean it’s here to stay”), led to an episode of Miami Vice during the show’s inaugural season. On the series’ 15th show, which aired Feb. 1, 1985, Frey guest starred as laid-back pilot Jimmy Cole, who shuttles Crockett (Don Johnson) and Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas) from Miami to Colombia in pursuit of drug dealers.
His moody You Belong to the City, a No. 2 pop hit, featured prominently on Miami Vice’s second season two-hour premiere and on the TV show’s chart-topping soundtrack in the fall of 1985.
Frey enjoyed a successful solo career in the 1980s during the Eagles’ “14-year vacation” he quipped, before reuniting in 1994. His other 1984 hit, The Heat Is On, from Beverly Hills Cop, has been used as a fan rallying cheer at games by the Miami Heat for years. His first solo album, No Fun Aloud in 1982, was, like the batch of Eagles’ LPs, recorded and mixed at Bayshore.
He later did a Pepsi commercial with Johnson, had acting roles in Jerry Maguire and Let’s Get Harry and did a series of gym commercials in the 1980s that played off his hard partying image in the previous decade, “Hard Rock in the ’70s, Rock Hard in the ’80s.”
The Eagles’ final studio album, Long Road Out of Eden, was released in 2007, and its first single, How Long, featured a lead vocal from Frey. The band released a statement Monday afternoon:
“Glenn fought a courageous battle for the past several weeks but, sadly, succumbed to complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia. 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.”
The group’s members were to be honored recently at the Kennedy Center Honors, along with Gloria Estefan.
Guitarist Frey and drummer Henley formed the Eagles in 1971, in Los Angeles, with guitarist Bernie Leadon and bassist Randy Meisner after they worked together as Linda Ronstadt’s backing band. She would record the Henley-Frey standard, Desperado, in 1973.
Henley said Frey was like a brother. The two would become the American Lennon and McCartney of the 1970s with a catalog of classics including New Kid in Town, Heartache Tonight, Lyin’ Eyes and Tequila Sunrise, all of which featured Frey on lead vocals. Take It Easy, the group’s first Top 40 hit in 1972, was a Frey co-write with fellow Southern California soft rocker Jackson Browne. Frey contributed the indelible lyrical hook, “It’s a girl, my lord, in a flatbed Ford, slowin’ down to take a look at me,” to complete the song Browne had begun writing in an apartment just below Frey’s in the Echo Park section of Los Angeles.
Henley said Frey “started it all” and was “the spark plug, the man with the plan.” He added that Frey had “an encyclopedic knowledge of popular music and a work ethic that wouldn’t quit.”
Indeed Ronstadt, while driving around L.A. with Frey in the late ’70s, marveled at his musical memory. One of the tapes he played for his former boss was Chuck Berry’s oldie, Back in the U.S.A., a song Ronstadt would quickly cover for her 1978 Living in the USA album that helped keep her America’s most popular female pop vocalist at the time.
I'm not sure I believe in fate, but I know that crossing paths with Glenn Lewis Frey in 1970 changed my life forever, and it eventually had an impact on the lives of millions of other people all over the planet.
Eagle Don Henley’s statement on colleague Glenn Frey
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Howard Cohen: @HowardCohen
Glenn Frey Playlist
Build the best of Frey with these Eagles songs in which Frey sang lead and standout selections from his solo career.
▪ Take It Easy, from Eagles (1972)
▪ Peaceful Easy Feeling, from Eagles (1972)
▪ Already Gone, from On the Border (1974)
▪ James Dean, from On the Border (1974)
▪ Lyin’ Eyes, from One of These Nights (1975)
▪ New Kid in Town, from Hotel California (1976)
▪ Heartache Tonight, from The Long Run (1979)
▪ I Found Somebody, from the solo No Fun Aloud (1982)
▪ The One You Love, from the solo No Fun Aloud (1982)
▪ All Those Lies, from the solo No Fun Aloud (1982)
▪ Smuggler’s Blues, from the solo The Allnighter (1984) and Miami Vice soundtrack (1985)
▪ The Allnighter, from the solo The Allnighter (1984)
▪ The Heat Is On, from the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack (1984)
▪ You Belong to the City, from the Miami Vice soundtrack (1985)
▪ How Long, from Long Road Out of Eden (2007)
▪ It’s Your World Now, from Long Road Out of Eden (2007)
▪ After Hours, from the solo After Hours (2012)