Aside from four new tunes included on their 1994 live LP Hell Freezes Over, the Eagles hadn’t produced new material in the studio since their sixth album, 1979’s The Long Run, which preceded their acrimonious split the following year.
The group’s classic lineup — Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Don Felder, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit — had been brought back together in 1993 at the urging of country star Travis Tritt, who contributed a remake of the band’s “Take It Easy” to the country tribute Common Thread. In 1994, Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles was named CMA Album of the Year. The LP’s success and the Eagles’ participation in the video for Tritt’s rendition of their song went a long way toward the deep thaw that continued throughout the next two decades, only to end with Frey’s untimely death at 67 years old on Monday.
Although guitarist Don Felder was no longer a part of the group by 2001, the four remaining members eventually released their seventh studio effort Long Road Out of Eden in 2007. The album’s first single “How Long,” written by longtime Eagles friend and collaborator J.D. Souther as a Vietnam protest tune in the Seventies, became a Top Thirty country hit and the Eden LP debuted at Number One on Billboard‘s Top Country Albums chart as well as the Billboard 200. Second single “Busy Being Fabulous” garnered enough country-radio airplay to give the group a second consecutive Top Thirty country hit.
As 2007 was drawing to a close, the group was invited to perform on the Country Music Association’s CMA Awards. First nominated for the CMA Vocal Group of the Year honor in 1976, and again the following year (losing both times to the Statler Brothers), the Eagles had never appeared together on the show (though Don Henley performed with Trisha Yearwood in 1992, having sung with her on the CMA-nominated hit “Walkaway Joe”). When the Eagles agreed to appear on the 2007 show, they had one important stipulation.
“When they came in and performed on the CMAs a few years ago, they said, ‘We’ll play but we want Vince to introduce us,” Vince Gill tells Rolling Stone Country. “I’ve been connected to them for 35-plus years. I think that’s one of the most important bands ever, just from the legacy of the song. And stylistically they were the blueprint of anything that was deemed country-rock. Those influences and being a part of Linda [Ronstadt]’s band in those early days. They were the patriarchs of that whole movement.”
Following the release of “How Long,” “Busy Being Fabulous,” and Long Road Out of Eden — which launched a tour of the same name — the group earned back-to-back nominations for CMA Vocal Group of the Year, as well as a 2008 Grammy for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals, for “How Long.” The LP was the best-selling of 2007, eventually certified seven times platinum, as a double album selling 3.5 million copies in the U.S alone. The album was the group’s last studio project in Frey’s lifetime.
The Eagles were scheduled to receive a Kennedy Center Honor at the end of 2015, but it was deferred to 2016 due to Frey’s ongoing medical issues.