My favourite band in the early 1970’s was the Raspberries. After their last album in 1974 and eventual breakup, I felt a musical void.
Was there another band that I could be passionate about? Hey, I was 14, give me a break for being over-sensitive! 😉
As I approached those introspective late teenage years, I started to focus on singer-songwriters, and the especially the sounds coming out of California. It was a fertile, creative time in Southern California, as an unprecedented number of artists such as Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg, and the Eagles, were starting to make inroads.
The quality of the songs that these musicians were writing, and especially the lyrics, connected with me immediately. Right from the start, there was something about the Eagles that intrigued me. Sure I was aware of the early hits such as Take It Easy, and The Best of My Love, but I hadn’t spent any time with their music. For me it was always about vocals, strong melodies and musicianship, the Eagles seemed to have each of these qualities in spades.
A Christmas 1975 gift was the album One Of these Nights.’ My homework began. I started reading everything I could find on the Eagles. Back then you had to wait for a monthly music magazine (in my case, Hit Parader and Circus), because there were few other resources available. I also backtracked and purchased their previous three albums, On the Border, Desperado and their self-titled first album.
I was overwhelmed by the vocals, the strong songwriting, and the guitar interplay between Bernie Leadon (later Don Felder) and Glenn Frey was melodic heaven. Don Henley and Frey were writing songs that spoke to me on every level. Yes, I had found my new Raspberries.
The strength of a well-constructed song cannot be denied. The Eagles sought perfection with their music, and most of the time, succeeded. Yes, there was an over-attention to detail that alienated many critics and music fans, and I’ll admit there were times I wished they would just release the music and not fret over every single note. Regardless, in my mind, every aspect of every song was brilliantly arranged (thank you, Glenn Frey) and showed that at times their devotion to perfection was worth the struggle.
When a beloved musician dies, it always hits me hard. I know that one person is no more important than another, but I’m affected by music because of its force throughout my life.
Elvis’ death in 1977 was the first musician death that I remember clearly. Even though he was not of my generation, it resonated with me because his music was very popular in our household. The first musician death that did have a tangible effect on me was John Lennon in 1980. I clearly recall the tears that seemed to last forever, and how for many it seemed like the end of their dreams. The end of their youth.
And that’s what it comes down to – beyond the music, there is this sense of a loss of youth. I have this impossible wish that these musicians will grow old with me. I imagine that comes mostly from emotion and nostalgia. The reality of course is, that as I get older it’s inevitable that these musicians that were part of my youth, musicians who are 10-20 years older than me, will pass.
Glenn Frey’s passing reminds me how easy it is for people you’ve never met to still have an impact on your life. At the same time, it also feels like someone tugging at my youth, saying, “I guess it’s time to let go.”
It seems like yesterday since my initial indoctrination to the Eagles. I’ve taken that ride now for close to 45 years, and never looked back. Even when the band took a recording and touring ‘break’ from 1980 to 1994, they were never far from my thoughts, my turntable or my guitar. Radio and their respective solo careers kept them alive in my heart.
For some who are reading, these words will come across as over-the-top. For others who might be like me – those who have had music be a touchstone in their lives, connecting them to events – you’ll nod your head and say, “I get it.” The days of youth passed a long time ago and that’s ok, because that special music that formed my youth, will be with me forever. #RIPGlennFrey