I was thinking about posting some more thoughts about David Bowie when the news came Monday that Glenn Frey had died. It seems like 2016 is going to be a bad year for fans of aging rock stars.
Frey, of course, was the guitarist for The Eagles, one of the group’s two founders (the other being drummer Don Henley). My liking for Bowie’s music remains rooted, for the most part, in the 1970s. My appreciation for The Eagles has grown exponentially as I and they aged. I haven’t bought a David Bowie album in almost 40 years. I would buy a new Eagles album tomorrow, sound unheard, because I think it would have more to say to me.
I hadn’t really thought about it before, but, like Bowie, The Eagles also deal in alienation. But they let the music and lyrics speak for themselves, no need for Bowie-like theatrics. And, dare I say it, they have a tinge of hope to their music that I always found lacking in Bowie’s tunes.
I saw Glenn Frey perform with The Eagles in the summer of 2013. It was a first for me. I had passed on seeing the band on several previous occasions. (Once I even sold my ticket while waiting in line to enter the venue. That perhaps is a story for another day.) That 2013 concert was a retrospective show, “The History of the Eagles,” which was just what it sounds like (you can buy the DVD of the event), It was probably the best concert I saw that year. They were much better than Paul McCartney whom I had seen the previous week. They did more than just play the hits, they told the story of the band and its songs, and somehow managed to make an arena seem intimate (a tough accomplishment, I was almost at the very top, as you can see from the video).
The past week I have been somewhat surprised at the gushing, tributes to David Bowie. It’s easy to be adventurous when you have talent, fame and wealth, but was he really such a trend-setter? I think not, if we are truly honest. He took few real risks when he moved from one musical persona to another, carefully managing his career to keep the inner man hidden. I wonder if that was because he didn’t know who he really was? This past week many in the media were proclaiming him as a cultural superhero, but I don’t see that. Maybe I’m just esthetically blind.
Both musicians leave behind a wealth of recorded material. Glenn Frey didn’t have Bowie’s flamboyance, but he didn’t need it. Whether writing and singing about what separates or about what draws people together, Glenn Frey’s music made people feel good. He will be missed.