April 10, 2014: Musician Glenn Frey poses for pictures during the 29th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)
Glenn Frey, a founding member of the rock band the Eagles, died Monday in New York City, his publicist announced. He was 67.
Frey “fought a courageous battle” for the past several weeks, according to his publicist, but 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,” his publicist said.
Guitarist Frey and drummer Don Henley formed the Eagles in Los Angeles the early 1970s, along with guitarist Bernie Leadon and bassist Randy Meisner. They would become a top act over the next decade, embodying the melodic California sound.
Henley said in a statement Frey was “like a brother to him.”
“The bond we forged 45 years ago was never broken, even during the 14 years that the Eagles were dissolved, he said. “We were two young men who made the pilgrimage to Los Angeles with the same dream: to make our mark in the music industry – and with perseverance, a deep love of music, our alliance with other great musicians and our manager, Irving Azoff, we built something that has lasted longer than anyone could have dreamed.”
An Eagles greatest-hits collection from the mid-1970s and “Hotel California,” released in 1976, both have sold more than 20 million copies and are among the best-selling albums of modern times. Their many hit singles included “The Best of My Love,” ”Desperado,” ”One of These Nights” and “The Long Run,” a prophetic boast from 1979 that they would “go the distance” in the long run.” The impulsive Frey and 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.”
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 parted ways with the band 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 honored at the Kennedy Center last month, but the appearance was postponed because of Frey’s health problems.
Frey had occasional success as a solo artist, with songs including “The One You Love” and “You Belong to the City,” and he had 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 of the same name.
Frey, known for his oversized jaw, big grin and wavy dark hair, loved music, girls and the rock ‘n’ roll life. He would meet up with Henley, Meisner and Leadon while all were trying to catch on in the Los Angeles music scene, and for a time the four backed Linda Ronstadt.
The bandmates harmonized memorably on stage and on record but fought often otherwise. Leadon and Meisner departed after run-ins with Frey, and Felder ended up in legal action with the Eagles. The band’s breakup in 1980 happened after Felder and Frey nearly came to blows after a concert in Long Beach, California.
Frey and Henley also became estranged for years, their breach a key reason the band stayed apart in the 1980s. Henley had vowed the Eagles would reunite only when “hell freezes over,” which became the name of the 1994 album they had never imagined making.
The Associated Press contributed to this report