NEW YORK—Glenn Frey, a rock ‘n’ roll rebel from Detroit who journeyed west, co-founded the Eagles, and with Don Henley formed one of history’s most successful songwriting teams with such hits as “Hotel California” and “Life in the Fast Lane,” has died.
Frey, 67, died of complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis, and pneumonia, the band said on its website.
He died yesterday in New York. He had fought the ailments for the past several weeks, the band said.
“Words can neither describe our sorrow, nor our love and respect for all that he has given to us, his family, the music community, and millions of fans worldwide,” a statement on the band’s website said.
Frey’s health problems, including diverticulitis, dated to the 1980s.
He would blame in part his years of “burgers and beer and blow and broads,” and later became a fitness advocate.
Guitarist Frey and drummer Henley formed the Eagles in L.A. in the early 1970s, along with guitarist Bernie Leadon and bassist Randy Meisner.
They embodied for many listeners the melodic L.A. sound despite having no native Californians in the group.
Critics often dismissed them as slick and unadventurous, but their blend of mellow ballads and macho rockers, and of pop and folk and country, gave them broad appeal.
An Eagles greatest-hits collection and “Hotel California,” both released in the 1970s, have sold more than 20 million copies each and are among the bestselling albums of modern times.
The band’s total album sales top 100 million copies.
The Eagles’ many hit singles include “The Best of My Love,” “Desperado,” “One of These Nights,” and “The Long Run.”
The impulsive Frey and the more cerebral Henley shared songwriting and singing duties, with Frey’s drawling tenor featured on “Heartache Tonight,” “Already Gone,” and the group’s breakthrough hit, “Take it Easy.”
Henley said crossing paths with 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.”
Their popularity well outlasted their breakup in 1980 and the 14-year hiatus that followed.
Their records remained consistent sellers, and they were a top touring act over the last 20 years even though Frey and Henley were the only remaining original members.
They were joined on stage by guitarist Joe Walsh, who replaced Leadon in the mid-1970s, and bassist Timothy B. Schmit, who stepped in after Meisner quit in 1977.
Guitarist Don Felder was added in 1974 but was fired in 2001 amid disputes over money.
The band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 and was supposed to have been honoured at the Kennedy Center last month, but the appearance was postponed because of Frey’s health.
Its six Grammys include Record of the Year for “Hotel California” and best country performance by a vocal duo or group for “How Long,” from the 2007 album “Long Road Out of Eden,” another No. 1 seller.
Frey had success as a solo artist, with songs including “The One You Love” and “You Belong to the City,” and careers in movies and television.
He appeared on episodes of “Miami Vice” and “Nash Bridges,” both featuring his friend, Don Johnson, and appeared in the film “Jerry McGuire,” directed by Cameron Crowe, who had befriended him after he interviewed the Eagles for Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s.
Frey’s “The Heat Is On” was a hit from the “Beverly Hills Cop” soundtrack, and his “Smuggler’s Blues” inspired a “Miami Vice” episode.
Frey, known for his oversized jaw, big grin, and wavy dark hair, loved music, girls, and the rock ‘n’ roll life.
He was playing in bands as a teenager, with fellow Detroit musician Bob Seger among his early friends, and would meet up with Henley, Meisner, and Leadon while all were trying to catch on in the L.A. music scene.
For a time the four backed Linda Ronstadt.
Anyone around them at the time knew they were determined to make it—and make it big. The Eagles’ personnel, sound, and direction would change often in the ’70s as they adapted to the changes of the decade itself.
“Take it Easy,” released in 1972, defined their early image as mellow, country-influenced musicians, but they soon desired a harder, more straightforward rock sound.
They added Felder, whose work was featured on “Already Gone” and other uptempo songs.
When a frustrated Leadon, a bluegrass picker, quit in 1975, they brought in Walsh—one of music’s wildest and loudest performers.
“Hotel California” was their creative peak—the title song a long and intricate rocker that captured the decadence of mid-’70s Los Angeles as unforgettably as “Take it Easy” stood for a more laid-back time.