The Eagles are an American rock band formed in Los Angeles in 1971 by Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, and Randy Meisner. With five number-one singles, six Grammy Awards, five American Music Awards, and six number one albums, the Eagles were one of the most successful musical acts of the 1970s. At the end of the 20th century, two of their albums, Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975) and Hotel California, ranked among the 20 best-selling albums in the U.S. according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Hotel California is ranked 37th in Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time”, and the band was ranked number 75 on the magazine’s 2004 list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
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They are one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time, having sold over 150 million records—100 million in the U.S. alone—including 42 million copies of Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975) and 32 million copies of Hotel California. They are the fifth-highest-selling music act and highest-selling American band in US history. No American band sold more records than the Eagles during the 1970s.
The Eagles released their self-titled debut album in 1972, which spawned three top 40 singles: “Take It Easy”, “Witchy Woman”, and “Peaceful Easy Feeling”. Their next album, Desperado (1973), was less successful than the first, reaching only number 41 on the charts; neither of its singles reached the top 40. However, the album contained two of the band’s most popular tracks: “Desperado” and “Tequila Sunrise”. They released On the Border in 1974, adding guitarist Don Felder midway through the recording of the album. The album generated two top 40 singles: “Already Gone” and their first number one, “Best of My Love”.
It was not until 1975’s One of These Nights that the Eagles became arguably America’s biggest band. The album included three top 10 singles: “One of These Nights”, “Lyin’ Eyes”, and “Take It to the Limit”, the first hitting the top of the charts. They continued that success and hit their commercial peak in late 1976 with the release of Hotel California, which would go on to sell over 16 million copies in the U.S. alone and over 32 million copies worldwide. The album yielded two number-one singles, “New Kid in Town” and “Hotel California”. They released their last studio album for nearly 28 years in 1979 with The Long Run, which spawned three top 10 singles: “Heartache Tonight”, “The Long Run”, and “I Can’t Tell You Why”, the lead single being another chart-topping hit.
The Eagles disbanded in July 1980 but reunited in 1994 for the album Hell Freezes Over, a mix of live and new studio tracks. They have toured intermittently since then and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. In 2007, the Eagles released Long Road Out of Eden, their first full studio album in 28 years and their sixth number one album. The next year they launched the Long Road Out of Eden Tour in support of the album. In 2013, they began the extended History of the Eagles Tour in conjunction with the band’s documentary release, History of the Eagles.
Formation and early releases (1971–73)
The Eagles began when Linda Ronstadt and then-manager John Boylan recruited session musicians Glenn Frey and Don Henley in the spring of 1971. Henley had moved to Los Angeles from Texas with his band Shiloh (produced by Kenny Rogers), and Frey had come from Michigan and formed Longbranch Pennywhistle; they had met in 1970 at The Troubadour in Los Angeles and became acquainted through their mutual record label, Amos Records. Randy Meisner, who had been working with Ricky Nelson’s backing band, and Bernie Leadon, a veteran of The Flying Burrito Brothers, joined Ronstadt’s group of performers for her summer tour. The original Eagles played live together only once, backing Ronstadt for a July concert at Disneyland, but all four appeared on her eponymous album. After the gig with Ronstadt, Henley and Frey asked Leadon and Meisner to form a band, and they soon signed with Asylum Records, the new label started by David Geffen. The name of the band was first suggested by Leadon during a peyote and tequila-influenced group outing in the Mojave Desert, when he recalled reading about the Hopis’ reverence for the eagle. Steve Martin, a friend of the band from their early days at The Troubadour, recounts in his autobiography that he suggested that they should be referred to as “the Eagles,” but Frey insists that the group’s name is simply “Eagles”. Geffen and partner Elliot Roberts initially managed the band; they were later replaced by Irving Azoff.
The group’s eponymous debut album was recorded in England in February 1972 with producer Glyn Johns. Released on June 26, 1972, Eagles was a breakthrough success, yielding three Top 40 singles. The first single and lead track, “Take It Easy”, was a song written by Frey with his then-neighbor and fellow country-folk rocker Jackson Browne. Browne had written the majority of the song, up until the line “I’m standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona”, where he got stalled. Frey added the next line (“It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford”), and Browne carried on to finish the song. The song reached No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and propelled the Eagles to stardom. The single was followed by the bluesy “Witchy Woman” and the soft country rock ballad “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, charting at No. 9 and No. 22 respectively.
Their second album, Desperado, took Old West outlaws for its theme, drawing comparisons between their lifestyles and modern rock stars. This album was the first to showcase the group’s penchant for conceptual songwriting. It was during these recording sessions Henley and Frey first began writing together. They co-wrote eight of the album’s eleven songs, including “Tequila Sunrise” and “Desperado”, two of the group’s most popular songs. The bluegrass songs “Twenty-One,” “Doolin-Dalton”, and the ballad “Saturday Night” showcase guitarist Bernie Leadon’s abilities on the banjo, guitar, and mandolin. The story of the notorious Wild West “Doolin-Dalton” gang is the main thematic focus of the album, as seen in the songs “Doolin-Dalton,” “Desperado”, “Certain Kind of Fool”, Outlaw Man”, and “Bitter Creek”. The album was less successful than the group’s first, reaching only No. 41 on the US pop album charts, and yielding two singles, “Tequila Sunrise”, which reached No. 61 on the Billboard charts, and “Outlaw Man”, which peaked at No. 59. With Henley and Frey co-writing the bulk of the album—a pattern that would continue for years to come—the album marked a significant change for the band. The pair also began to dominate in terms of leadership; the early assumption had been that Leadon and Meisner would steer the band.
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