Glenn Frey, the guitarist, singer and songwriter who co-founded the Eagles, whose country-tinged, melodic rock tunes, wistful love ballads, philosophical anthems, observations of the outlaw life and testaments to the wages of decadence made it perhaps the leading American band of the 1970s, died on Monday in New York City. He was 67.
An announcement on the band’s website said the cause was complications of rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia.
The Eagles, founded in Los Angeles in 1971 by Mr. Frey and the drummer and singer Don Henley, lived furiously in the musical spotlight for nearly a decade, pumping out hits that defined a post-Beach Boys California pop in the midst of an era that otherwise gave birth to both disco and punk.
The band flamed out in 1980 and disbanded. It got back together 14 years later with its popularity barely subsided, but it was the rocket-like rise and spectacular early success that landed it in 1998 in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, whose website said the Eagles sold more records than any other band in the 1970s. It had four consecutive No. 1 albums, five No. 1 singles and its “Greatest Hits 1971-1975” album alone sold upward of 26 million copies.
The band’s hit songs included yearning, battle-of-the-sexes musings like “Lyin’ Eyes” and “Heartache Tonight,” and the cool-cat lifestyle statements “Take It Easy” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” all of which featured Mr. Frey’s light, casual, relaxed lead vocals, as well as the No. 1 hit “Hotel California,” the band’s signature song from its 1977 album of the same name.
Its imagistic, vaguely mystical lyrics, written by Mr. Frey, hint at a drug-fueled state of being, perhaps promising rapture, perhaps not, and have supplied fuel for countless interpretations:
There she stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself,
“This could be Heaven or this could be Hell”
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say...
Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place (Such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the Hotel California
Any time of year (Any time of year)
You can find it here
Glenn Lewis Frey was born in Detroit on Nov. 6, 1948, and grew up in the suburb of Royal Oak. His father was an auto factory worker; his mother, as he described it in “History of the Eagles,” a 2013 documentary about the band, “baked pies at General Motors.”
From left, Timothy B. Schmit, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Don Felder and Joe Walsh in 1979. Credit Ebet Roberts
He took piano lessons from the age of 5 — “that alone could get you beat up after school in suburban Detroit,” he said — but he switched to guitar after seeing the Beatles perform live in downtown Detroit and having the girls in the audience go wild.
He played in bands around Detroit (he played acoustic guitar on an early recording by another local rocker, Bob Seger), before moving to Southern California and crossing paths with the likes of Jackson Browne (with whom Mr. Frey wrote the song “Take It Easy”) and Linda Ronstadt.
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He also met Mr. Henley, and the two of them toured with Ms. Ronstadt’s band. Mr. Frey and Mr. Henley, with two other members of Ms. Ronstadt’s band, the bassist Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon, who plays guitar and other stringed instruments, were the first incarnation of the Eagles.
The band members were known for their often conflicting personalities, which led to changes in personnel — other members included the guitarists Don Felder and Joe Walsh and the bassist Timothy B. Schmit — and eventually to the breakup of the band.
Mr. Frey and Mr. Henley battled over creative control and other matters; Mr. Frey, whom People magazine once referred to as the Warren Beatty of rock, has acknowledged a certain profligate lifestyle during the band’s first decade.
“By ’76, ’77, Glenn and I were living in a big house that belonged to Dorothy Lamour, up in the hills with a 360-degree view,” Mr. Henley said on the website superseventies.com. “Glenn and I were the odd couple. I was sort of the housekeeper, the tidy one. He was the lovable slob. All around the house he’d leave these little cigarette butts standing on end. They looked like miniature cities.”
After the band broke up in 1980, Mr. Frey embarked on a solo career, producing hit songs including, “The Heat Is On.”
Survivors include his wife, Cindy, and three children, Taylor, Deacon and Otis.
An underestimated reason for the success of the Eagles, perhaps, was their perfectionism, especially Mr. Frey’s.
“Glenn, I think took three days in the studio on the word ‘city’ at the beginning of ‘Lyin’ Eyes,’ ” Mr. Felder, who joined the band in the mid-1970s, said in an interview on the website ultimateclassicrock.com. “It would either be a little early, or a little late, or the ‘T’ would be too sharp. It literally took a long time to get that word perfect — maybe to an extreme. But every time that word goes by now and I hear it, I can appreciate the time and dedication and perseverance that it took to get it perfect.”