Remembering Glenn Frey: The life and career of an Eagles icon

2 July 2024, 16:24 | Updated: 3 July 2024, 16:13

Glenn Frey in the 1970s
Glenn Frey in the 1970s. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

Glenn Frey is a name synonymous with classic rock.

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Born on November 6, 1948, in Detroit, Michigan, Glenn Lewis Frey was the son of Edward and Nellie Frey. Growing up in the suburbs of Detroit, Frey was immersed in a musical environment from an early age.

His parents recognized his musical talents and encouraged him to pursue his passion.

Frey's upbringing was relatively typical for a midwestern American family. He attended Dondero High School in Royal Oak, where he was an active participant in the school's music programs. Frey’s love for music blossomed in his teenage years, inspired by the rock 'n' roll revolution of the 1950s and 60s. He learned to play the piano and guitar, eventually forming his first band, the Subterraneans, while still in high school.

L-R: Don Felder, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Glenn Frey, Randy Meisner
L-R: Don Felder, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Glenn Frey, Randy Meisner. Picture: Getty

After high school, Frey attended Oakland Community College for a brief period, but the call of music was too strong to resist. He moved to Los Angeles in the late 1960s, where he became involved in the vibrant music scene. It was here that he met future Eagles bandmate Don Henley. The two young musicians quickly formed a close bond, sharing a mutual love for harmony-driven rock music.

In 1971, Frey and Henley teamed up with Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner to form the Eagles (Don Felder, Timothy B Schmit and Joe Walsh joined later). The band’s debut album, Eagles, was released in 1972 and featured hits like 'Take It Easy' and 'Witchy Woman'. Frey’s distinct voice and musical prowess helped propel the Eagles to stardom. Their blend of rock, country, and folk resonated with a wide audience, and they quickly became one of the most popular bands of the 1970s.

Frey was not just a talented musician; he was also a prolific songwriter. He co-wrote many of the Eagles' biggest hits, including 'Lyin' Eyes', 'Take It to the Limit', and 'Hotel California'. His knack for crafting memorable melodies and poignant lyrics became a hallmark of the band's sound. The Eagles’ success continued with albums like Desperado, One of These Nights, and Hotel California, solidifying their place in rock history.

Glenn Frey in 2008
Glenn Frey in 2008. Picture: Getty

Despite their success, tensions within the band led to their breakup in 1980. Frey embarked on a solo career, releasing his debut album, No Fun Aloud, in 1982. His solo work showcased his versatility as an artist, blending rock, pop, and soul influences. Hits like 'The Heat Is On' and 'You Belong to the City' demonstrated his ability to craft catchy, radio-friendly tunes.

On a personal level, Glenn Frey experienced both joy and challenges. He married Janie Beggs in 1983, but the marriage ended in divorce after five years. In 1990, he married Cindy Millican, a dance choreographer. The couple had three children together: Taylor, Deacon, and Otis. Frey was a devoted father, often speaking about the importance of family in his life.

The Eagles reunited in 1994 for their Hell Freezes Over tour, much to the delight of their fans. The tour was a massive success, and the band continued to perform together intermittently over the next two decades. Their enduring popularity was a testament to the timeless appeal of their music.

Glenn Frey, wife Cindy and family in 2010
Glenn Frey, wife Cindy and family in 2010. Picture: Getty

Frey's later years were marked by continued musical achievements and personal fulfilment. However, his health began to decline, and in 2016, he underwent surgery for intestinal problems. Tragically, Glenn Frey passed away on January 18, 2016, at the age of 67, due to complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis, and pneumonia. His death was a significant loss to the music world, and tributes poured in from fans and fellow musicians alike.

Glenn Frey's legacy is defined by his contributions to music, both as a member of the Eagles and as a solo artist. Songs like 'Take It Easy', 'Desperado', and 'New Kid in Town' continue to resonate with listeners across generations. His son Deacon would later join up with the Eagles, continuing his legacy even further.