Glenn Frey, a founding member and guitarist of the Eagles, one of the most popular and commercially successful artists of the 1970s, has died. The band confirmed the news on Monday (Jan. 18) with a statement on its website.
"Glenn fought a courageous battle for the past several weeks but, sadly, succumbed to complications from Rheumatoid Arthritis, Acute Ulcerative Colitis and Pneumonia," read the statement. "Words can neither describe our sorrow, nor our love and respect for all that he has given to us, his family, the music community & millions of fans worldwide."
Frey had been battling intestinal issues that caused the band to postpone its Kennedy Center Honors. A statement from the band said then the recurring problem would require "major surgery and a lengthy recovery period."
Eagles drummer and vocalist Don Henley issued the following statement:
"He was like a brother to me; we were family, and like most families, there was some dysfunction. But, the bond we forged 45 years ago was never broken, even during the 14 years that the Eagles were dissolved. We were two young men who made the pilgrimage to Los Angeles with the same dream: to make our mark in the music industry -- and with perseverance, a deep love of music, our alliance with other great musicians and our manager, Irving Azoff, we built something that has lasted longer than anyone could have dreamed. 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. He loved is wife and kids more than anything. We are all in a state of shock, disbelief and profound sorrow. We brought our two-year 'History of the Eagles Tour' to a triumphant close at the end of July and now he is gone. I'm not sure I believe in fate, but I know that crossing paths with Glenn Lewis Frey in 1970 changed my life forever, and it eventually had an impact on the lives of millions of other people all over the planet. It will be very strange going forward in a world without him in it. But, I will be grateful, every day, that he was in my life. Rest in peace, my brother. You did what you set out to do, and then some."
Frey was born on Nov. 6, 1948 in Detroit and was raised in nearby Royal Oak. He grew up on both the Motown sounds and harder-edged rock of his hometown. He played in a succession of local bands in the city and first connected with Bob Seger when Frey's band, the Mushrooms, convinced Seger to write a song for them. Frey can also be heard singing extremely loud backing vocals (particularly on the first chorus) on Seger's first hit and Frey's first recorded appearance, 1968's "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man."
But it wasn't long before warmer climes called and Frey followed then-girlfriend Joan Silwin to Los Angeles. Her sister Alexandra was a member of Honey Ltd., a girl group associated with Nancy Sinatra producer Lee Hazelwood, and she introduced Frey to her friend John David Souther.
It was a portentous introduction. Before long the two were living as roommates in East L.A. with another aspiring songwriter named Jackson Browne. All three quickly became deeply involved in the burgeoning L.A. country-rock scene centered around the Troubadour nightclub that started with the Byrds, proliferated with Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers and would, in softer form, dominate American airwaves for the bulk of the 1970s. But first. Frey and Souther would pay their dues as an unsuccessful duo, Longbranch Pennywhistle. The pair released a self-titled album on the short-lived indie Amos Records in 1969, but soon split up.
In 1971, fellow future country-rock superstar Linda Ronstadt was seeking a backing band and, on the advice of Souther, her boyfriend, hired Frey along with his friend, drummer Don Henley. On the night of their first show with Ronstadt, the ambitious and driven pair decided to form their own band and later recruited ex-Poco bassist Randy Meisner and former Burritos guitarist Bernie Leadon. The Eagles became one of the first artists signed to David Geffen's then-new label, Asylum. The group was an instant success, riding on the back of its first single, "Take It Easy" -- a song written almost entirely by Jackson Browne, with some lyrics added by Frey.