Remembering Glenn Frey: Cameron Crowe on Eagles’ Teen King
I found that I went to him often for gender-specific advice that would have stumped or even horrified my sister. When I once told him about a girl I was in love with from afar, a girl I was sure I needed to impress with a better “act,” Frey reacted hugely. “No!” he said with a pirate’s smile. “You don’t need an act — all you need is to be you.” He leaned in close. “If she can’t smell your qualifications, move on.”
Frey was a big character, and as I began to write fiction, I often plucked liberally from things he’d told me. The above quote I gave to Mike Damone in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
Glenn valued camaraderie, which was apparent whenever he was around crew and friends or in a recording session. Glenn and Don would coach the vocal takes like seasoned pros, giving sharp directions, as well as nicknames and athletic truisms worthy of John Wooden. Along with longtime friend and manager Irving Azoff, Glenn was also careful about keeping his band above financial water. He’d read too many biographies about genius musicians who were now broke. Early in the band’s history, he took me aside. “I don’t want to be super-rich; I don’t need the big money,” he once said. “I just want 1 million to spend on a house and a life, and 1 million to put in the bank and live off the interest. And then I got a life.”
Six months later, before playing a sold-out show in Oakland, he casually told me the good news. “Cameron, remember what I told you about the $2 million?” I nodded. “Got it. Now all I gotta do is make a buncha records that I would buy myself!”
The sound of those records made for scores of hits, changed the way concerts and the music business would be conducted in modern times, and also redefined what we now know as country music. None of this was by accident. Glenn was the playmaker. His and Henley’s deep knowledge of sounds, of R&B and soul, country and pure rock, warmed up three different generations. Their success never even flagged during the decade-plus hiatus they took starting in 1980.
Their 2013 documentary, History of the Eagles, told the whole warts-and-all story. And in it, you see the Frey that his friends knew. Funny. Tough. Cynical. A ruleskeeper. Along the way, these scrappy carpetbaggers from Texas and Detroit wrote about Los Angeles with a clarity and wit that few have matched, in novels, music or movies. Critically, the East Coast critical intelligentsia continued to slight them, and sometimes even mock them.
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