There are musicians who capture their time, and render out of it something timeless, and there are those who rack up serious hits—both equally noble achievements. Sometimes, a given artist can do both. I think Glenn Frey was one of the latter.
The Eagles were (are, always will be) the '70s, and as great as "Hotel California" is, you can't get more Eagles, more '70s, or, really, much greater than "Take It Easy." It's Jackson Browne's song, but he needed a character like Glenn Frey to really sell it, bring it to the masses and add that seal-the-deal line about the girl, my Lord, in the flat-bed Ford. (The same is true of Jack Tempchin and Robb Strandlund's "Already Gone.")
Likewise, "You Belong to the City" drips with '80s-ness, so much so that it was written especially for Miami freakin' Vice. A pop poem in neon. Radio-friendly existentialism. The apotheosis of MTV sax.
I came away from the Eagles documentary, History of the Eagles, as entertaining and enthralling a rock doc as I've ever seen, with a serious respect for Frey's vision. He seemed to have it all—star-quarterback good looks and charisma combined with an authentic blue-collar work ethic and a journalist's eye for detail (see: "Lyin' Eyes")—and he put his gifts to damn good use. And you can't help but love the straight talk, most of it centering on Frey's troubled relationship with bandmate Don Felder.
David Bowie was the aesthete's choice. When he died, the tributes poured forth on my Twitter feed, and do so still. But Frey and the Eagles were a people's band. Tonight, on the phone, my parents and I shared a moment of mourning for him.
There is something profound about music that cuts across generations this way, rather than compelling you to choose sides. You can call it safe, and once, I may have, but these days, noble is the word I'd use.
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