Glenn Frey (November 6, 1948 – January 18, 2016) was an American singer, songwriter, actor and founding member of the rock band the Eagles. Frey was the lead singer and frontman for the Eagles, roles he came to share with fellow member Don Henley, with whom he wrote most of the Eagles’ material. After the breakup of the Eagles in 1980, Frey embarked on a successful solo career.
Born in Detroit in 1948, Glenn Frey was inspired by the Beatles to play guitar. In 1971 he met drummer, Don Henley, and with guitarist, Bernie Leadon, and bassist, Randy Meisner, formed the Eagles, who would go on to become one of the decade’s biggest rock bands. Frey was also a prolific solo artist and dabbled in acting. He died in New York City on January 18, 2016.
Glenn Lewis Frey was born November 6, 1948, in Detroit, Michigan. Raised in the suburban community of nearby Royal Oak, Frey hailed from strong American middle class stock. Both his parents worked in the auto industry; his father as a factory worker, while his mother, as Frey later described, “baked pies at General Motors.”
Frey’s interest in music came early. He started piano lessons at the age of five, but then abandoned his lessons for the guitar as a teenager after catching a strong dose of Beatles fever.
In clubs throughout Detroit, Frey cut his teeth as a performer, playing in an array of different rock bands. He even played acoustic guitar on one of Bob Seger’s early recordings.
Drawn by California’s cultural explosion, Frey eventually moved to Los Angeles in the late 1960s. There, he immersed himself in the music scene and for a period lived with another up-and-coming musician, Jackson Browne. Frey later credited Browne for helping him become a more disciplined musician.
But it was another friend and roommate, J.D. Souther, who gave Frey his big break when he convinced his then girlfriend, Linda Ronstadt, to hire Frey and three others, bassist Randy Meisner, guitarist Bernie Leadon, and drummer Don Henley, to work as her backing band for a 1971 tour.
When the Ronstadt gig ended, the four musicians decided to continue on as a band and the Eagles were born.
Anchored by Henley and Frey, the Eagles churned out a rolling series of hits during the 1970s. Songs like “Take it Easy,” “Already Gone,” “Lyin’ Eyes,” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” became staples on FM radio.
The band reached the apex of its popularity with the 1976 album, Hotel California, and its title track earned them a Grammy for Record of the Year.
That same year, the group released its first compilation album, Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) to unprecedented success. It was the first album ever to be certified platinum, a distinction it earned in just its first week. In all, some 30 million copies of the record have sold in the U.S., second only to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
But along with the hits came troubled times for the band. Constant squabbling, especially between Frey and Henley, soon led the Eagles to take a hiatus in 1980.
The group came back together in 1994 for a new album and tour. Both were titled Hell Freezes Over, a name that was inspired by Frey’s earlier response to when he was asked if the Eagles might play together again.
Over the next two decades the band continued to record and tour. In 1998, the Eagles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
On his own, Frey continued to be a prolific songwriter. He released several solo albums, and his hits included “The Heat is On” and “You Belong to the City” recorded for the Beverly Hills Cop (1984) soundtrack as well as the single, “City,” for the TV show, Miami Vice.
Frey also churned out soundtrack hits for Beverly Hills Cop II (1987), Ghostbusters II(1989) and Thelma & Louise (1991).
His final solo album, and first in two decades, came in 2012 with the release of After Hours.
In between his music making, Frey also dabbled in acting. He had a guest appearance on Miami Vice and later on another Don Johnson TV hit, Nash Bridges. In 1993, he starred in the short-lived series, South of Sunset.
In addition, he had a meaty role as Arizona Cardinals general manager Dennis Wilburn in the 1996 Tom Cruise hit, Jerry Maguire.
In the later decades of his life, Frey battled a variety of health issues. A 1990 attempt to reunite the Eagles was postponed because the guitarist had to have part of his intestines removed.
In early 2016, Frey was severely ill as a result of complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis, and pneumonia. He died on January 18, 2016, at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.
In December 2016, The Eagles were celebrated at the 39th Kennedy Center Honors. At the ceremony, Vince Gill performed “Easy Feeling” as a special tribute to Frey.
Frey was married to Janie Beggs from 1983 to 1988. He married his second wife, Cindy Millican Frey in 1990 until his death, and they had three children — daughter Taylor, and sons Deacon and Otis.