Eagles founding singer, songwriter and guitarist Glenn Frey will be saluted during Monday’s 58th Grammy Awards ceremony by his bandmates as well as close friend and songwriting collaborator Jackson Browne.
Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmit and Bernie Leadon will join Browne to sing the Eagles’ first national hit, “Take It Easy,” the anthem of Southern California country rock that put the band on the map in 1972. The song was written by Browne and Frey, who died Jan. 18 at age 67 of rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia.
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“We wanted something simple and elegant, and in discussing it with the family, we wanted an uptempo moment,” the Eagles' longtime manager, Irving Azoff, told The Times on Monday, noting the spate of deaths of high-profile musicians in recent weeks.
“We knew they were going to do something to honor Glenn, as they well should,” Azoff said, “and our band decided they’d like to participate in it rather than watch someone else do it.”
Grammy telecast executive producer Ken Ehrlich said, “Even in our desire to honor the legacy of this band, Glenn’s passing -- coming so close to the night of the show -- presented certain challenges. What is really gratifying is what the surviving members of the Eagles felt about the importance of honoring Glenn’s legacy by coming and appearing on the show.”
Although Leadon left the Eagles in 1975, at which time guitarist Walsh joined the group, he had reconnected with the band during its long-running History of the Eagles tour and had played “Take It Easy” with them in recent years.
Browne also recorded his own version of the song, which he credited Frey with helping him finish. Browne's version appeared on his 1973 album "For Everyman."
As Henley put it in the liner notes for “The Very Best of the Eagles” compilation in 2003, Frey “had a knack for remembering and choosing good songs. Jackson had shelved ‘Take It Easy’ because he couldn’t complete it, but it was Glenn who remembered the song from some time earlier.”
Frey explained that Browne's example had inspired him to apply a new level of commitment to his songwriting, which led to their work together on “Take It Easy.”
As Frey and Henley planned to start a band of their own after being hired in the early '70s by singer Linda Ronstadt to serve as her backing band, Frey said he often heard Browne working relentlessly on his own song in his apartment below the one in Echo Park that Frey shared with singer-songwriter J.D. Souther.
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An earlier version of this post stated that Frey shared an apartment with Don Henley. He shared it with J.D. Souther. The story also reported the date Frey died as Jan. 17. He died Jan. 18.
“I had never really witnessed that sort of focus -- someone being that fastidious -- and it gave me a different idea about how to write songs; that maybe it wasn’t all just going to be a flood of inspiration,” Frey remembered. “That’s when I first heard 'Take It Easy.' "
Browne told Frey he’d gotten stuck at a certain point and sang the unfinished verse to Frey, who came up with the signature line, “It’s a girl, my lord, in a flatbed Ford, slowin’ down to take a look at me.”
“Jackson was so thrilled,” Frey recalled. “He said, ‘OK, we co-wrote this.’ But it’s certainly more of him.”
Said Ehrlich, “The choice was pretty unanimous. On our end, we would have been open to a number of choices. This one is befitting of Glenn’s contribution to the band on a vocal and on a songwriting level. I think it’s a great choice.”
"Take It Easy" was the first in a long string of hits for the Eagles that catapulted the band to international acclaim in the 1970s and '80s. As the Beach Boys had done a decade earlier, the Eagles created a body of work that came to help define Southern California to millions of listeners worldwide.
The group’s 1976 album “Eagles/Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975” has jockeyed with Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” over the years as the bestselling album of all time, according to the Recording Industry Assn.’s tallies, with sales approaching 30 million copies in the U.S. alone.
Shortly after Frey’s death, Azoff told The Times that a memorial would be held but that “it will take some time.” No plans have been announced.
Asked whether the band’s surviving members felt that performing at the Grammy show barely a month after Frey’s death would be difficult emotionally, Azoff said, “The time is never right. But at some point, you just put one foot in front of the other and go for it.”
As to whether there could be any future for the Eagles without Frey, Azoff told The Times recently, “I haven’t even given it a thought. It’s of no importance right now.”
The Grammy Awards ceremony will take place Monday at Staples Center in Los Angeles and will be telecast live on CBS-TV starting at 5 p.m. (Pacific).