The 10 best songs sung by Glenn Frey

When Glenn Frey died on January 18, the Eagles died with him. The partnership between Frey and Don Henley – as co-founders of the band, its leaders and principal songwriters – was what made the Eagles one of the biggest rock groups of all time. Without Frey, it’s over. What he leaves behind is a legacy of great music, made with the Eagles and as a solo artist.

As a writer, vocalist and guitarist, Frey played a key role in all of the Eagles’ greatest songs. Some of them – Hotel California, Desperado, One Of These Nights, Life In The Fast Lane – were sung by Henley. But it was Frey who sang the song that first introduced the Eagles to the world – and so many others that followed. Above all else, these are the songs for which Glenn Frey will be remembered…

10. YOU BELONG TO THE CITY (single, 1985)
Two of Frey’s best solo songs were featured in the hit TV series Miami Vice – in episodes directed by Paul Michael Glaser, aka Starsky from Starsky & Hutch. First, in 1984, the rowdy, slide guitar-driven Smuggler’s Blues: in the episode of the same name, in which Frey played a cameo role as a drug dealer, a subject he knew a little about. But the bigger hit was You Belong To The City, written for an episode named The Prodigal Son. This moody, atmospheric track went all the way to number two on the US chart in 1985, denied the top spot by Starship’s We Built This City.

9. PEACEFUL EASY FEELING (Eagles, Eagles, 1972)
It was one of the key songs on the Eagles’ debut album, defining their early country-rock style. But the band didn’t write Peaceful Easy Feeling. The guy who did was Jack Tempchin, a singer-songwriter based in LA, and a buddy of Frey’s. The Eagles took the song and made it their own, their version beautifully sung by Frey. “It was so good,” Tempchin said, “I couldn’t believe it.”

8. PART OF ME, PART OF YOU (Strange Weather, 1992)
This brilliant Frey solo track from the early 90s is classic Americana: a song that was made for blasting out of a car stereo. As such it was a perfect fit for the soundtrack to the classic road trip movie Thelma & Louise, and became its primary theme song.

7. HEARTACHE TONIGHT (Eagles, The Long Run, 1979)
How do you follow an album as great and as big as Hotel California? What the Eagles needed in 1979 was another huge hit song, and with the no-brainer rock anthem Heartache Tonight they got it. The first single from 1979’s The Long Run was a US number one and a million seller. It was written by Frey, Henley, their old friend J.D. Souther and fellow American rock superstar Bob Seger – the latter credited for the chorus. What went unacknowledged was the similarity between this song’s hand-clapped backbeat and that of soft rock hero Andrew Gold’s 1978 hit Never Let Her Slip Away

6. OL’ 55 (Eagles, On The Border, 1974)
The Eagles’ 1974 album On The Border yielded the band’s first US number one single, the acoustic ballad Best Of My Love, and a lesser hit with the country-rock zinger Already Gone. But the best song on that record was one written by Tom Waits, who was signed to the same label as the Eagles – Asylum Records. Ol’ 55 was the first track and lead single from Waits’ debut album Closing Time. The Eagles’ version was even better, with Frey and Henley sharing lead vocals, and the chorus lifted by glorious vocal harmonies.

5. THE HEAT IS ON (The Allnighter, 1984)
Frey’s most famous solo hit was one of the defining songs of the 80s. Part of that was due to its inclusion in the mega-hit movie Beverly Hills Cop. But beyond that, it was simply a great feelgood rock song – its sound carbon-dated by that rasping sax riff. So very 80s.

4. TEQUILA SUNRISE (Eagles, Desperado, 1973)
It seems amazing now, but Desperado, the definitive Eagles ballad, was never a single. From a band that was always so set on having hit records, it’s baffling – especially as the two singles from the Desperado album were complete stiffs. This was not so surprising with Outlaw Man – that was never going to be a hit in a million years. The one that got away – at the time, at least – was Tequila Sunrise. A mellow, bittersweet song, with a perfectly pitched lead vocal from Frey, Tequila Sunrise would, like Desperado, go on to become an Eagles classic.

3. LYIN’ EYES (Eagles, One Of These Nights, 1975)
From 1975’s One Of These Nights – the second-best Eagles album, after Hotel CaliforniaLyin’ Eyes was a number two hit in America. The lyrics in the song were inspired by the scenes witnessed by Frey and Henley in LA bar Dan Tana’s, as beautiful young women gravitated towards wealthy older men. Frey hadn’t reached 30 when this song was recorded, but he sang it like an old soul.

2. TAKE IT EASY (Eagles, Eagles, 1972)
It was the Eagles’ debut single, and more than 40 years later it remains the definitive country-rock song. Frey wrote Take It Easy with his friend, singer-songwriter Jackson Browne. And Browne also recorded the song for his 1973 album For Everyman. But the Eagles’ version is the one that it known all over the world. Jackson Browne is a great singer, but even he couldn’t sing Take It Easy better than Glenn Frey.

1. NEW KID IN TOWN (Eagles, Hotel California, 1976)
The Eagles had a famous motto: ‘Song Power’. And on the band’s greatest album Hotel California – filled with classic songs including Life in The Fast Lane, Wasted Time, The Last Resort and that epic title track – was Glenn Frey’s masterpiece, New Kid In Town. There has never been a better song written about the nature of fame, and how, for so many, it comes and goes in the blink of an eye. The power of New Kid In Town is in its beautiful melody, in the lyrics – so heavy with wisdom and sadness – and in the way Frey sings them, an iron fist in a velvet glove: “You’re walking away and they’re talking behind you/They will never forget you till somebody new comes along.” It was always a powerfully emotive song: now, even more so.

Listen to the songs on our Spotify playlist: The 10 best songs sung by Glenn Frey

Glenn Frey: a life lived in the fast lane

Paul Elliott

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2005, Paul Elliott has worked for leading music titles since 1985, including Sounds, Kerrang!, MOJO and Q. He is the author of several books including the first biography of Guns N’ Roses and the autobiography of bodyguard-to-the-stars Danny Francis. He has written liner notes for classic album reissues by artists such as Def Leppard, Thin Lizzy and Kiss, and currently works as content editor for Total Guitar. He lives in Bath - of which David Coverdale recently said: “How very Roman of you!”