One of the definitive bands of the American 1970s, and the group behind many of Classic Rock's most iconic and enduring hits, including "Take It Easy", "One of These Nights", "Hotel California", "Life in the Fast Lane", and "Heartache Tonight" to name a few.
They started as a backup band for Linda Ronstadt, consisting of guitarists Glenn Frey and Bernie Leadon, bassist Randy Meisner and drummer Don Henley. Noticing they worked well together, she encouraged them to go on their own. They started out as a country-rock group before moving on to more mainstream Arena Rock sounds and breaking through to super-stardom around 1974, the year guitarist Don Felder joined. In 1975, Leadon quit and was replaced by former James Gang guitarist Joe Walsh, and the following year the band would reach their greatest commercial success with the release of their album Hotel California.
Many of their songs revolve around or at least touch upon the ugly side of The American Dream that nobody talks about, which the band members felt they knew quite a lot about by the middle part of their career. Possibly worth noting is that their first Greatest Hits Album was the best-selling album in United States history for more than three decades; its status only changed in 2009 because Michael Jackson died. The band would reclaim the title again in 2018, which also led to said greatest hits album surpassing AC/DC's Back in Black as the second biggest-selling album in the world. Randy Meisner quit in 1977, replaced by Timothy B. Schmit (who also replaced Meisner in Poco). The band broke up following an infamous concert in July 1980 that featured Frey and Felder openly threatening each other throughout the performance. Each of the members went on (or in Walsh's case, returned) to a solo career, although Henley and Frey were the most successful.
It is also worth noting that at their "Hell Freezes Over" reunion tour, Glenn Frey quipped "For the record, we never broke up; we just took a fourteen-year vacation." However, disagreements between Frey, Henley, and Felder would result in the latter's firing in 2001 and subsequent lawsuits against Frey and Henley. Eagles officially reunited to release their first new album in 28 years, 2007's Long Road Out of Eden and have spent much of the time since on tour.
Their instrumental space-country-rock song "Journey of the Sorcerer" (from the album One of These Nights) is famous for being used as the theme song for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Although Eagles are not primarily considered a country music act, the band has loads of credibility in that department. Three of the band's singles have been top 40 country hits, and Long Road out of Eden was the best-selling country album of 2008. In addition, Eagles' trademark use of layered harmonies has shown up in a very large number of country music bands, from '80s mainstream groups Alabama and Restless Heart, to more recent acts like Alison Krauss & Union Station and Diamond Rio. In 1993, several country singers joined forces to record a tribute album called Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles; Travis Tritt's decision to include the 1980 line-up in the video for his cover of "Take It Easy" is said to have been a catalyst in the band's 1994 reunion. In addition, Henley recorded two duets with country superstar Trisha Yearwood. The band's mix of country and rock has also had an obvious influence on modern country adopting rock influences as well.
On January 18, 2016, Glenn Frey died while recovering from surgery, at the age of 67. After the band took part in a moving tribute performance with Jackson Browne at that year's Grammy Awards, Don Henley stated the band was more or less over... but shortly afterwards, it was announced that the band would continue to perform, with Glenn's son Deacon taking over his father's role and country singer Vince Gill contributing as well.
Principal members (Founding members in bold, current members in italic):
- Don Felder – guitar, backing and lead vocals, organ, mandolin (1974–80, 1994–2001)
- Glenn Frey – lead vocals, guitar, harmonica, keyboard, piano, harmonium, synthesizer, bass (1971–80, 1994–2016; died 2016)
- Don Henley – lead vocals, drums, percussion, guitar, tabla, keyboard (1971–80, 1994–present)
- Bernie Leadon – guitar, backing and lead vocals, mandolin, banjo (1971–75)
- Randy Meisner – bass, backing and lead vocals, guitar, guitarrón (1971–77; died 2023)
- Timothy B. Schmit – bass, backing and lead vocals (1977–80, 1994–present)
- Joe Walsh – guitar, backing and lead vocals, keyboard, organ (1975–80, 1994–present)
- Deacon Frey – rhythm and lead guitars, backing and lead vocals (2017–present)
- Vince Gill – lead and rhythm guitars, backing and lead vocals (2017–present)
Studio and Live Discography:
- 1972 – Eagles
- 1973 – Desparado
- 1974 – On the Border
- 1975 – One of These Nights
- 1976 – Hotel California
- 1979 – The Long Run
- 1980 – Eagles Live
- 1994 – Hell Freezes Over
- 2005 – Farewell 1 Tour - Live from Melbourne
- 2007 – Long Road Out of Eden
- The Alcoholic: Joe Walsh. "I only got drunk once, for thirty years."
- Bittersweet Ending: The main theme of "After The Thrill Is Gone" (What can you do when your dreams come true / And it's not quite like you planned?)
- Casting Couch: "King of Hollywood".
- Celebrity Song: "James Dean", a romanticized ode to the actor of the same name.
- Concept Album: Desperado, about the Wild West.
- Crapsaccharine World: Hotel California.
- Cover Version: Tom Waits' "Ol' 55" (On the Border), Steve Young's "Seven Bridges Road" (Eagles Live).
- Crapsack World: Several of their songs, but "Life in the Fast Lane" is probably the harshest.
- Cue the Flying Pigs: After repeatedly stating that they would only re-form "when Hell froze over," when they finally put the band back together, they titled the resulting live album Hell Freezes Over.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: The first two albums had a more bluegrass-inflected style courtesy of Bernie Leadon rather than the Arena Rock sound they developed later.
- Ensemble Cast: Straight and averted – they began with the concept of splitting everything (almost) equally, but by the end, it was obvious that Glenn Frey and Don Henley dominated the songwriting and singing, not to mention decision making. One of Frey's conditions for the band's 1994 reunion was that he and Henley should make more money than the others, as he saw the band not as 'the musketeers' but as a sports team where all the players are important but some are more important than others. That caused a lot of tension with Don Felder and ultimately led to the latter's firing from the group.
- Not to mention that, in terms of lead vocals, Don Henley gained more and more importance as the years went by: on their eponymous debut album, he sang two tracks out of ten (Leadon sang two as well, Frey and Meisner three each); four years later, on Hotel California, Henley sang more lead vocals than all of his bandmates put together (4-1-1-1-0, respectively, plus one instrumental).
- Food Slap: Bernie Leadon left the band by pouring a beer over Glenn Frey's head.
- Freudian Excuse: In "Get Over It":Victim of this, victim of that,Your momma's too thin and your daddy's too fat.
- Gold Digger: The female protagonist of "Lyin' Eyes".
- Greatest Hits Album: Their first, released in 1976 and covering their pre-Hotel California output, is one of the best-selling albums of all time.
- Green Aesop: "The Last Resort".
- Hilarious Outtakes: Their "Selected Works" collection included a number of these, including Joe Walsh's absurd vocal impressions and improvisations, Henley experimenting with various ways of expressing boredom, and short (improvised) songs about broken toes and the Pope's speculative ability to boogie.
- Homesickness Hymn: "Desperado" is about getting tired of aimless selfish excess and returning to a place of stability and love:Desperado, you ain't getting no youngerYour pain and your hunger, they're driving you homeAnd freedom, oh freedom, that's just some people talkingYour prison is walking through this world all alone
- Inn of No Return / Hell Hotel: "Hotel California".
- Lampshade Hanging: When the group broke up in 1980, Henley said in an interview that they'd get back together "when Hell freezes over." Guess what they called the reunion album.
- Their first major tour after the reunion was called "Farewell One."
- Lead Bassist: Both Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmit, by virtue of being part of the Vocal Tag Team and sharing writing credits.
- Lead Drummer: Don Henley, by virtue of being lead vocalist for more songs than anyone else in the group.
- Lesser Star: Don Felder believes he became one since the reunion. See Ensemble Cast.
- Liquid Courage: Referenced in the bridge of "Tequila Sunrise":Take another shot of courage, wonder why the right words never comeYou just get numb
- Live Album: Eagles Live, Hell Freezes Over, Farewell 1 Tour–Live from Melbourne.
- Long-Runner Line-up: Frey, Henley, Walsh, and Schmit passed the 10-year threshold in February 2011, the ten-year anniversary of their booting of Don Felder from the group.
- Loudness War: The 1999 remasters of the Eagles catalogue, being mastered by Ted Jensen of Death Magnetic infamy, are slightly compressed, but still have their dynamics in place. Completely averted by Long Road Out of Eden.
- Love Triangle: The storyline of "Lyin' Eyes".
- Mal Mariée: Modern spin on Mal Mariée ("badly married") appears in song "Lyin' Eyes". Young city girls marry rich old guys to have an easier life... but they pay an ugly price when they find out they miss love, affection, and sex.And it breaks her heart to think her love is onlyGiven to a man with hands as cold as ice
- Mind Screw: The lyrics of "Hotel California" constantly keep you just slightly confused about what exactly is going on. Even the band isn't really sure what it's about: according to Don Henley, the song is about the problems one encounters when you spend your life seeking fame and suddenly get it; Frey says it's about slowly losing one's hopes and dreams as life wears you down; Walsh says it's about both; and when he was asked, Schmit famously shrugged his shoulders and said, "How the fork should I know, man..."note
- There are three main Epileptic Trees about the song. The first is that it is a deconstructed Ode to Intoxication. The second is that it is referencing a religious cult (everything from the Manson Family to Hollywood Satanism to the Church of Happyology has been suggested).
- The third, sometimes compared to a short musical The Twilight Zone (1959) episode, is when the lyrics are taken literally. The Hotel California is an Eldritch Inn Between the Worlds that lures in passersby and traps them in a paradise while it slowly makes them forget the world. The final two verses of the song are the protagonist realizing that This Isn't Heaven.Next thing I remember, I was running for the door.
I had to find the passage back to the place I was before.
"Relax", said the nightman, "we are programmed to receive.
You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!"
- Never My Fault: In "Get Over It":I turn on the tube, and what do I see?A whole lot of people crying, "Don't blame me."They point their crooked little fingers at everybody else,Spend all their time feeling sorry for themselves.
- One-Steve Limit: Averted with Don Henley and Don Felder.
- Only Sane Man: If the Documentary is to be believed, Don Henley seemed to be the closest thing to one the band had.
- Playing Card Motifs: From "Desperado":Don't you draw the queen of diamonds, boy. She'll beat you if she's able. You know the queen of hearts is always your best bet.
- Putting the Band Back Together:
- They famously reunited for the 1994 Hell Freezes Over album and tour after fourteen years apart.
- A year before that, they got together to appear in the music video for Travis Tritt's cover of "Take It Easy".
- Their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1998 is notable for being the one and only time all seven of the band's members up to that time played together.
- Quit Your Whining: "Get Over It" is basically this message throughout the entire song, motivating people to get over their failures in life and stop blaming them on everybody else.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: "Get Over It" is an entire song that is just one such speech.
- Rousing Speech: Do Something
- Sad Clown: Joe Walsh. He admitted that most of his zany antics were his way of dealing with a lot of the difficult elements in his life.
- Self-Referential Track Placement: "Seven Bridges Road" appears as the seventh track on Eagles Live.
- Shout-Out: To Steely Dan in Hotel California:"They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can't kill the beast."
- Shout-Out: To Shakespeare: "Get Over It"
- Step Up to the Microphone / Vocal Tag Team: Frey and Henley were the most prolific songwriters; The latter usually sang lead, with the former taking the lead once or twice an album on the songs they wrote together. Other band members would typically write one song per album, on which they would sing lead. Don Felder sang lead exactly one time, on "Visions" off of One of These Nights, which he co-wrote with Henley.
- Supergroup: They sort of started out as one, having all been individual standouts in different groups in the early Los Angeles country rock scene.
- Take That!: To sensationalized news in general with "Dirty Laundry", and sometimes to specific people in the news media. (The most common dedication is "to Mr. Rupert Murdoch", though occasionally they take aim at Bill O'Reilly instead.)
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: They’re almost as famous for their infighting as they are for their music. For reference, while mixing the live album, Henley and Frey not only refused to be in the same studio but also the same state as each other.
- The "The" Title Confusion: The band's name is "Eagles". Not "The Eagles", just "Eagles", though they seem to be okay with using "the" in certain contexts where saying just "Eagles" would sound odd (like the History of the Eagles—Live in Concert tour).
- Truck Driver's Gear Change: "Hole In The World" has a classic example.
- We Used to Be Friends: Don Henley and Glenn Frey. The song "The Long Run" is partially about their fractured friendship.
- Don Felder and Glenn Frey. While much is made of their often Acrimonious relationship(and how their brawl was the catalyst to the first ending of the group), Felder expressed regret that they were unable to make up before Frey died.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: How their relationship until Frey's death could probably be best described. Don Felder and the current lineup, however...
- Wham Line: "Hotel California" has the famous "You can check out any time you like/But you can never leave".