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.
Glenn Frey, circa 1970. The founding member of the Eagles died at age 67 on Jan. 18.(Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)
The Eagles in a 1973 group portrait in London, from left: Randy Meisner, Bernie Leadon, Glenn Frey and Don Henley.(Gijsbert Hanekroot / Redferns)
A portrait of Glenn Frey in London in 1973.(Gijsbert Hanekroot / Redferns)
Glenn Frey of the Eagles performs onstage at Wembley Empire Pool in London on April 26, 1977. He plays a Gibson ES-330 guitar.(Gus Stewart / Redferns)
Glenn Frey performs with the Eagles at the Oakland Coliseum in 1977.(Richard McCaffrey / Getty Images)
Glenn Frey performs with the Eagles at Ahoy on May 11, 1977 in Rotterdam, Netherlands.(Gijsbert Hanekroot / Redferns)
The Eagles, with special guest Jackson Browne (second from left), perform onstage at the Chicago Stadium on Oct. 22, 1979. Pictured are, from left, Timothy B. Schmit, Browne, Glenn Frey, Don Henley (on drums), Joe Walsh and Don Felder.(Paul Natkin / Getty Images)
The Eagles take a bow in 1980 with songwriter J.D. Souther, second from left. From left: Timothy Schmit, Souther, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Joe Walsh and Don Felder. The concert at the San Diego Sports Arena was a fundraiser for Gov. Jerry Brown’s campaign for president.(George Rose )
California Gov. Jerry Brown was introduced onstage by Eagles’ Glenn Frey, right, during a fundraising concert at the San Diego Sports Arena. This photo was published in the Dec. 24, 1979, Los Angeles Times.(George Rose / George Rose)
The Eagles perform on the TV show “Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert” in 1979. From left: Don Felder, Don Henley, Joe Walsh and Glenn Frey.(Fotos International / Getty Images)
Glenn Frey performs onstage at the Petrillo Band Shell during the Chicago BluesFest on July 4, 1985.(Paul Natkin / Getty Images)
The Eagles, clockwise from upper left, Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmidt, Don Felder, Don Henley, and Glen Frey, pose before their “MTV Unplugged” taping in 1994.(Bob Carey / Los Angeles Times)
Don Henley, left, and Glen Frey perform at an “MTV Unplugged” taping inside the Warner Bros. sound stage on April 25, 1994.(Bob Carey / Los Angeles Times)
Glenn Frey of the Eagles performs onstage during the 16th annual Race to Erase MS event at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on May 8, 2009 in Century City.(Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images)
Glenn Frey performs at Belfast’s Odyssey Arena in Northern Ireland in 2009.(Peter Morrison / Associated Press)
The Eagles’ Glenn Frey performs on Day 3 of the 2010 Austin City Limits Music Festival at Zilker Park in Austin, Texas.(C Flanigan / Getty Images)
Glenn Frey on Jan. 19, 2013 at the premiere of the film “History of the Eagles Part 1.”(George Frey / EPA)
Glenn Frey performs with the Eagles at Muhammad Ali’s Celebrity Fight Night XVI in Phoenix in March 2010.(Ralph Freso / Associated Press)
Glenn Frey performs with the Eagles at Qantas Credit Union Arena on March 2, 2015 in Sydney, Australia.(Don Arnold / WireImage)
“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.”
Click through the gallery to see some of the top Grammys 2016 winners and nominees including Taylor Swift, the Weeknd and Ed Sheeran. Make sure to check out The Times’ complete Grammys coverage.(From left: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times; Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times; Matt Sayles / Invision / AP)
WINNER: Album of the year, pop vocal album and music video; NOMINATED: Record of the year, song of the year, pop solo performance, pop duo/group performance.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
WINNER: Record of the year and Pop duo/group performance; NOMINATIONS: Pop vocal album(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
WINNER: Best New Artist(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
WINNER: Rock song, rock performance and alternative music album; NOMINATIONS: Album of the year.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
WINNER: Song of the year and pop solo performance. NOMINATIONS: Record of the year, album of the year.(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
WINNER: rap album, rap performance, rap song, rap/sung collaboration, and music video; NOMINATED: album of the year, song of the year.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
WINNER: R&B performance, urban contemporary album; NOMINATIONS: Record of the year, album of the year, pop solo performance, R&B song, and song written for visual media.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
WINNER: R&B song and R&B album; NOMINATIONS: Record of the year.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
WINNER: Country solo performance, country album; NOMINATIONS: Album of the year, country song.(Jenna Schoenefeld / For The Times)
NOMINATIONS: Rap performance, rap/sung collaboration, rap song and rap album(Bethany Mollenkof / Los Angeles Times)
NOMINATIONS: Pop duo/group performance, pop vocal album, rock performance and rock song(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Nominations: Rap performance, rap/sung collaboration and rap album(Christopher Polk / Getty Images for A+E Networks)
WINNER: Country duo/group performance; NOMINATIONS: Country album.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
NOMINATIONS: New artist and country album(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
NOMINATIONS: R&B performance and R&B album(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
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.
FOR THE RECORD
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.”
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.
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).