January 18, 2017
As Don Henley has taken to saying during his solo shows, 2016 was a tough year and we lost a lot of really good people. Though Leonard Cohen was a musical influence and Carrie Fisher a personal friend, we can assume that a loss that has affected him quite profoundly has been the loss of Glenn Frey.
For those of us in this community, that is probably true as well. A year ago, we came together as a group of fans to mourn and celebrate the life of this amazing man who meant so much to so many of us. At the time, many of us commented on how odd it was to feel the loss of a man we never really knew…someone most of us had never met...so deeply. Even now that a year has passed, we still feel his loss. A song on the radio, a meme on Facebook or some other random thing entirely can conjure up emotions and remind us of the hole he left behind.
I thought, rather than spend this space lamenting the fact that he is gone and that that the Eagles are no more, I would collect some thoughts about Glenn’s legacy and what he taught us in the time that he was here.
- Don’t give up on your dreams. Shortly after Glenn passed away, I was talking about him with someone who knew him and what he said has stuck with me and I think about it a lot. “Glenn wanted to be a rock star.” That was his dream and he made it happen. Some of his critics might put him down for thinking about rock and roll like a business, but Glenn knew what he wanted and rather than wish for it or think “…someday” he put together a plan, he put together the right people and he did what he needed to do to make it real. For Glenn, dreams and reality were intertwined. They weren’t separate. For him it was possible for a middle class kid from middle America to make it big. As Henley said in his statement after Glenn died, “But, Glenn was the one who started it all. He was the spark plug, the man with the plan. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of popular music and a work ethic that wouldn’t quit. He was funny, bullheaded, mercurial, generous, deeply talented and driven.” There were some who didn’t get that drive or who didn’t understand that making things happens sometimes means making sacrifices or hard decisions or cutting dead weight. Glenn was and continues to be an inspiration to anyone who says “Maybe I could….” or “What would happen if….” Glenn wanted to be a rock star and he was.
- Be Loyal. Just from the little we’ve experienced in our dealings with this band and its members, loyalty is everything. If you are loyal…if you have someone’s back, they will always have yours if you don’t betray that loyalty. Glenn exemplified this. If you look at the people who paid tribute to him after he passed, whether it was in an interview, a tweet or song dedicated at the end of a concert, there were a tremendous amount of people who thought the world of him. These were people from every arena of his life. Personal friends, musicians, actors, philanthropists and sports stars all said what a good guy he was. They talked about the things Glenn did for them. As the year has gone on, we’ve seen numerous reports of people on social media talking about what Glenn did for them personally, or did for their parents. From multimillionaire investors to people who took care of his family members, Glenn inspired loyalty because he offered it in return. Even today, Bob Seger who knew Glenn for decades, felt inspired to write a song about his ”deep heart.” Glenn was fiercely loyal to his family and to the causes that were close to him. Back in the ‘90s, he didn’t just give money to an organization called “A Grassroots Aspen Experience”, he personally sponsored and worked with inner-city kids during summer retreats. We’ve heard from some of these kids years after the kids left the program and they talked about how Glenn was still in touch and about how he and Cindy personally made sure they had shoes and school supplies.
Glenn was loyal to the bandmates who stuck with him through thick and thin. I don’t think anything speaks more to that fierce sense of loyalty than the incident that happened at a Henley show on Glenn’s birthday in Detroit as Glenn was battling the diseases that ultimately took him. An obnoxious, disrespectful drunk in the front row disrespected Stueart and mentioned someone who had also disrespected Glenn and caused problems for him. The look on Don’s face as he dispatched that booze-soaked jerk right out of the concert is something I will never forget. I hate to assign emotions to people without knowing what’s going on in their brain, but it was obvious Don was forcing himself to keep things in check. Don told the audience that he did what he did for his friend, Glenn and said he thought Glenn would have liked it. That’s loyalty right there. To have someone’s back and to know that they have yours as well is everything.
- Laugh. God, Glenn had a laugh. It was loud and goofy and could be obnoxious. I bet right now you are conjuring up your favorite image of Glenn bent over guffawing about something. Maybe it’s that time Don forgot a lyric. Maybe it’s from an interview where he was talking about Joe. Maybe it’s the way he laughed at his own jokes in concert. Glenn’s sense of humor is something that will be deeply missed. I know we all complained about his stale jokes…the plaintiff one…the Dead Sea one...but he loved telling them and he loved the reaction they got. Glenn had a sense of humor about himself. He preened in front of a mirror on stage and danced in shoes that made him happy. A long time ago, when the tour was cancelled because he was sick, we had our students make him get well cards. A lot of them must have mentioned us going to concerts and liking Don Henley, because in a thank you card he sent us, he told us we had to “…get over this Don Henley thing.” He thought it was funny. He didn’t take offense. These days when the world has gone as Henley said, “…bat shit crazy” or we feel like we are living in the upside down, we should remember to laugh like Glenn did.
- Be a fan. Glenn was a fan. We’ve heard stories of Glenn geeking out over meeting people like Richie Furay. Glenn had season tickets to his favorite sports teams. He collected pieces from his artists he loved. He was passionate about so many things. So often, fans get a bad reputation. We’ve heard it all in the over 20 years we’ve been doing this. We’ve been called crazy or stalkers. We’ve been told to “…get a life.” Glenn understood, though, what it meant to be excited by something. He just got it and it showed because Glenn had a reputation of being very good to his fans. He responded to fan mail. He invited fans he met at concerts out for dinner or made sure kids in the front row got guitar picks directly from him. He would chat with people at golf tournaments and imparted knowledge of his craft to students who wanted to follow in his footsteps.
This brings me back to where this piece all started. Being a fan of Glenn meant that this was a difficult year for so many of us. We’ve had to explain to bosses or friends or random strangers why we’ve gotten teary-eyed or why we’ve been so deeply affected by someone we didn’t know. But he was (and is) a part of us and he and his music have impacted our lives. And that’s okay. It’s okay to be a fan. It’s okay to grieve and it’s okay to feel loss for a musician.
This sense of loss hits me at the most random of times. We’ve recently done this whole slate of Henley shows, but oddly (or maybe not so oddly), Glenn has been heavy on my mind. I realized Don no longer does The Long Run in his solo shows and I get why, but it struck me that I will probably never hear that song live again…and that for sure, I’ll never see Don and Glenn lean toward each other during that “bent not breaking” line. That made me sad. As Don sang Desperado last night after mentioning Glenn, I took time to look at Michael, Stueart, Scott and Will and thought about how they must be feeling in that moment. That made me sad. Knowing that there is a final number on my count of Eagles shows…that our Eagles ticket binder will not get any thicker makes me sad.
But there are good things. Glenn’s death helped reconnect us with fellow fans we haven’t talked to in ages. We’ve started Facebook groups for people who were in the fandom ages ago. We’ve gone to shows with people we first met almost 20 years ago. And it’s been good. Really good.
So Glenn has taught us that being a fan is cool. You shouldn’t have to explain it or rationalize it. Feeling passionate about things like music and singers adds zest to life, builds communities and makes the tough times better.
So, thanks Glenn. Thanks for teaching us to dream big but to plan for the specifics. Thanks for teaching us about loyalty and laughter. Thanks for bringing us together through a common love of you and your music. I know it seems trite to say that Glenn continues to live on through his music and the lives he touched, but it’s true. It’s 100 percent true.
There’s a line in the musical Hamilton:
“Legacy, what is a legacy?
It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see
I wrote some notes at the beginning of a song someone will sing for me”
Glenn has left a giant legacy. It’s up to us to continue to sing his song.