An inter-generational ensemble of musicians convened to celebrate the Eagles and perform several of the band’s most famous hits at the 39th Annual Kennedy Center Honors earlier this month. The evening’s other honorees included Mavis Staples, James Taylor, Al Pacino and the pianist Martha Argerich. CBS aired the special Tuesday night.
Ringo Starr served as an MC of sorts during the Eagles tribute segment, opening the proceedings with a short speech. “I am honored to be here this evening to honor the Eagles, including my brother-in-law, Joe Walsh, who forced me to do this,” he said. He then quickly introduced Kings of Leon, who rollicked through “Take It Easy” with assistance from a soothing group of backing singers.
Next up was Colombian musician Juanes, who delivered a meaty rendition of “Hotel California” alongside guitarists Steve Vai and Steuart Smith. The two players split the first half of the song’s signature guitar solo before ripping through the second part in unison, bringing the track to a riff-happy close. Colorful riffs played a central role in Vince Gill’s “Peaceful Easy Feeling” as well, even as Gill brought the mood back to tranquil country rock. His sterling pedal steel guitarist repeatedly burst through the song’s serene glide with slashing runs.
The evening ended with arena punch and mass sing-alongs: Bob Seger, who co-wrote the Eagles’ 1979 single “Heartache Tonight,” jabbed his way through the track as the crowd clapped in unison to the heavy beat. All the performers then joined together to sing “Life in the Fast Lane” while Ringo danced goofily in the background.
Though the Eagles were initially slated to be honored in 2015, the band postponed due to the late singer/guitarist Glenn Frey’s health problems. Frey died in January.
Speaking at the event, President Obama lauded the varied group for both their talent and wide-reaching impact. “Their legacies are measured not just in terms of works of art but [also] the lives they’ve touched,” he told the crowd.
How Glenn Frey’s drug dealer, Don Henley’s king-size mattress and other elements played into The Eagles’ “Hotel California.”