About four months ago, Bob Seger went down to Nashville's Ocean Way studios to record a song he'd written about his late friend Glenn Frey. "It's obviously not meant to be a hit," he says. "There's no chorus per se or title section or anything. The idea was just to honor his memory and talk, very specifically, about my impression of him in 1966 when we first met."
The sparse, tender "Glenn Song" recounts their long friendship. "When I think about you I always smile," Seger sings. "You were strong/You were sharp/But you had the deepest heart." Seger and the Nashville studio pros got the song on tape very quickly. "I think it was take one or two," Seger says. "It was the first song we did that day. I said to the drummer, 'Hit it hard even though its a ballad and that's a little incongruous.' I wanted a ballad with a heavy beat because that's the way I remember Glenn." Instead of releasing it on a future album, Seger decided to simply give it away on his website to mark the one-year anniversary of Frey's death. You can hear it right here.
Seger and Frey grew up in Detroit and were part of the same local rock scene of the mid-1960s. "When [Jimi Hendrix's 1967 debut] Are You Experienced came out, we bought it and took it to Glenn's parents house in Royal Oak," Seger says. "We went up to his room and played it. We looked at each other at the end like, 'Oh my God, we're out of a job.'" That wasn't quite the case as the very next year Seger scored his first national hit with "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," featuring Frey on background vocals. But Seger struggled for years afterwards to land a big follow-up hit, and by the time he did in 1976 with "Night Moves" Frey was well-established as a member of the Eagles. "When that happened he called me up and goes, 'OK, Bob, no girl singers and no playboy bunnies,'" remembers Seger, laughing uproariously at the memory. "He'd already been through all that."
They stayed close even as their career paths went in different directions. Seger last saw him no July 24th, 2015 when the History of the Eagles tour came to Detroit's Joe Louis Arena. Frey told him backstage he was writing a play with comedian Robert Wuhl that might get workshopped at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. They planned on getting together when that happened, but Seger's phone never rang. When he went to New York that November he ran into Don Henley's wife Sharon in the lobby. She asked for his room number and said she would send Don over. "He told me Glenn was really sick," says Seger. "I said, 'Oh, I've got to see him.' He said, 'You can't see him. He's in ICU at Columbia Medical Center. Family only."
Frey passed away just two months later. Seger sang "Heartache Tonight" (a song he co-wrote for the Eagles in 1979) at the memorial ceremony, a performance he revived at the Kennedy Center Honors later in the year. "I hope 'Glenn Song' doesn't make his wife Cindy cry," says Seger. "But it probably will."
In 2016, we said good-bye to icons – such as Glenn Frey, David Bowie and Muhammad Ali – and many more talented and cherished artists, entertainers and athletes.