100 Greatest Men: #81. Eagles

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October 2, 2011

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

You can count their country hits on one hand, and still have fingers to spare.  But the Eagles did more to shape the sound of country music than any rock band before or since.

It was another country rocker, the legendary Linda Ronstadt, that nudged the band into existence.  Looking for musicians to back her on record and on stage, the founding members – Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, and Randy Meisner – performed on her 1971 eponymous album.   With her encouragement, they decided to form a band of their own.

From the time they released their debut album in 1972 until they ended their initial run with 1979′s The Long Run, the Eagles produced rock music that was heavily laced with country instrumentation.   The sound was most prevalent in their earlier work, and while they’d only score one top ten hit at country radio, “Lyin’ Eyes”, they still managed to score a Vocal Group nomination at the CMA Awards.

The country connection to their work was forgotten until the nineties, when a tribute album called Common Thread brought together the nineties country superstars who were most influenced by the band’s work.   Anyone who wondered why so many middle-aged rock fans suddenly embraced country music in the early nineties can have their questions answered by that tribute album.  Alan Jackson, Clint Black, Trisha Yearwood, Travis Tritt, and Vince Gill covered Eagles classics faithfully, and the end result was a collection of performances that reflected just how similar their own work was to that of the Eagles.

The tribute album won the CMA for Album of the Year, and its commercial success inspired the Eagles to reunite for their Hell Freezes Over tour and subsequent album.   When they decided to make their first studio album in almost three decades, they targeted the country market directly. Long Road Out of Eden topped the country albums chart and produced a Grammy-winning country hit with “How Long.”   When they hit the road to support the album, they did so with the Dixie Chicks and Keith Urban.

Essential Singles:

  • Take it Easy, 1972
  • Lyin’ Eyes, 1975
  • Take it to the Limit, 1975
  • Hotel California, 1976
  • Heartache Tonight, 1979

Essential Albums:

  • Desperado, 1973
  • One Of These Nights, 1975
  • Hotel California, 1976
  • The Long Run, 1979
  • Long Road Out of Eden, 2007

Next: #80. The Everly Brothers

Previous: #82. Fiddlin’ John Carson

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

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  1. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    Great write-up.

    For as much flak as the Eagles get now for “watering down” country music, I think the pop-rock elements they fused into the genre (accidentally, since all they did was create a sound people imitated) were inevitably going to sneak in as the music climate evolved. And their country-ish stuff isn’t bad, either. If Chris Young released “Tequila Sunrise” or Little Big Town released “Lyin’ Eyes” tomorrow, they’d be among the best singles of the year. The Eagles aren’t particularly deep, but they’re good at mood and melody.

    From a country-influence perspective, my essential singles list would look like this:

    Take It Easy
    Tequila Sunrise
    Lyin’ Eyes
    Take It to the Limit
    New Kid in Town
    Heartache Tonight

  2. Before I was a fan of country music, I was listening to the Eagles. They shaped my musical identity more than any other artist.

    I cannot remember a time when they weren’t a part of my musical life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Their “Lyin’ Eyes” is my favorite song of all time.

    I’ve seen them in concert twice, 2003 and 2008, and they put on a great show. Over three hours of non-stop music. I wish I could’ve seen their tour with Keith and Dixie Chicks, but that didn’t happen. I bet that had been a great show.

    In thinking back over their more country sounding hits, you’ve left off one of my favorites – “Best of My Love.” It might be their most country sounding hit of all.

    I will always remember my grandfather, who passed away earlier this year, loving Eagles. His favorite of their songs was “New Kid In Town.” He was always in awe of the Henley/Frey writing team and the songs they came up with. He’s the reason I’m such a fan and I’m forever grateful to him for it. Through an introduction to Eagles (and his other favorite, Linda Ronstadt) he showed me how truly masterful music can be and how well a song could be written. He also loved “Tequila Sunrise.”

    As for the tribute album, it really is a great record. I still hear Travis Tritt’s take on “Take It Easy” on my local country station every now and again. The artists did a great job of covering the songs. They mostly stayed faithful to the original versions, but to even tackle these songs was enough.

    My favorite track on the CD was Billy Dean’s take on “Saturday Night.” His warm voice mixed with the soft production made that track a winner. He really made that song his own.

  3. bobNo Gravatar says:

    Great article. Love the Eagles. I have all of their albums and Common Thread but only got to see or maybe I should say hear them once. My wife and I had terrible seats for a show of theirs in the late 70′s at the Nassau Coliseum.

    I would add “New Kid in Town” to the essential singles. Re Common thread I agree with the tracks singled out by Kevin and would add Billy Dean’s take on Saturday Night, noted by JPap, along with Suzy B’s Take It to the Limit.

    While I really like Alabama, Diamond Rio and now Zac Brown, the Eagles remain my favorite band.

  4. MotownMikeNo Gravatar says:

    Midnight Flyer has one of my favorite banjo parts (and solo) of all country and bluegrass music. Bernie Leadon had some red hot banjo parts!

  5. MotownMikeNo Gravatar says:

    Peaceful Easy Feeling, Midnight Flyer, Ol 55′, Outlaw Man, Love Will Keep Us Alive, Earlybird, Saturday Night, Train Leaves This Morning are also country selections in the Eagles catalog. Some of them were merely album cuts but did contribute to the early country sound that the Eagles had before they swayed sonically towards rock.

  6. Erik NorthNo Gravatar says:

    Obviously much of the Eagles’ early country sound was because of Bernie Leadon’s presence there, due to his bluegrass background, though he also later mastered the fine art of C&W/rock electric guitar under the influence of the late, great Clarence White.

    I also think that you have to count their friendship with Linda as being important to them because while they were her backing band in 1971, they helped her out on such C&W favorites as “Lovesick Blues” and “Silver Threads And Golden Needles.” It was also Linda who suggested getting Bernie in there in the first place. And the group was always very generous and complimentary of her, a trait which can’t always be said of all-male bands towards female singers (IMHO).

  7. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar says:

    Ugh – if you think Rascal Flatts represents real country music then you’ll love the Eagles. I doubt that this band would be in my top 200 anything unless I was compiling a list of musical pollutants

  8. Tom PNo Gravatar says:

    I don’t think an artist has to be “pure Traditional” Country to be good or important so I do like the Eagles. However, I think the Eagles did much more harm to country than good. It was unintentional and not their fault but it is true. Either way, they have shaped the sad state of modern country. They should possibly be on this list but I would rank them lower. Maybe 98 or so.

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