While also a confident electric soloist, this month Stuart Ryan shows how Frey’s fine acoustic strumming powered so many great Eagles songs.
The death of Glenn Frey on January 18 2016 robbed the world of one its greatest country-rock songwriting pioneers. Frey’s work as a songwriter with both The Eagles and as a solo artist set him apart from his peers, and hits like Lyin’ Eyes, Take It Easy and New Kid In Town will be forever remembered. His writing partnership with fellow Eagle Don Henley yielded some of the most memorable country rock tracks of all time, a fact bolstered by the mind boggling album sales.
Frey was born in Detroit, Michigan on November 6, 1948 and his early musical experiences came from playing piano from the age of five. As he grew older he was attracted to the Detroit rock scene and the guitar beckoned. He formed his first band, The Mushrooms, in 1967. In the same year he got his first break when he met singersongwriter Bob Seger who secured Frey his first management and recording contract. At just 19 years old Frey recorded acoustic guitar for Seger’s track Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man, and his own album the following year as the duo Longbranch Pennywhistle alongside JD Souther. Inevitably, Los Angeles beckoned and in 1969 he made the move, quickly forming an association with a young Jackson Browne – a co-writing partnership that would produce the early Eagles smash hit Take It Easy.
The following year, Frey met drummer Don Henley and the two of them formed Linda Ronstadt’s touring band, which also included Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon - thus The Eagles was born. The history and the hits of the band are well documented but what is particularly interesting is that Frey, a very capable lead guitarist, chose to let Don Felder and Joe Walsh take the bulk of the guitar spotlight while he took on acoustic rhythm guitar duties. It’s Frey’s solid strumming style that provides the backbone for many of the band’s best-loved tracks and his easy-going rhythm style is a lesson in both tight but relaxed strumming and embellished chord voicings. The powerful rhythms of Take It Easy are also a great example of how a simple strummed acoustic guitar part can drive a track along from the outset.
Frey’s career continued after the split of The Eagles in 1980, when he produced hits like The Heat Is On from Beverly Hills Cop. But the legendary Hell Freezes Over reunion Frey passed away after complications following surgery for rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia.
frey’s songwriting partnership with don henley yielded some of the most memorable songs of all time
NEXT MONTH Stuart looks at the delecate and beautiful acoustic style of Queen’s Brian May
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