Glenn Frey, a guitarist and composer who co-founded the Eagles and forged with bandmate Don Henley one of the most popular partnerships in rock music, generating hits such as “Take it Easy,” “Hotel California” and “Lyin’ Eyes,” died Jan. 18 in New York City. He was 67.
The cause was complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia, according to a statement from his family and bandmates posted on the Eagles’ website.
The announcement quoted the lyrics of “It’s Your World Now,” the last track of the Eagles’ most recent album, “Long Road Out of Eden” (2007), which Mr. Frey co-wrote with Jack Tempchin: “It’s your world now / My race is run / I’m moving on / Like the setting sun.”
The Eagles were supposed to be feted at the Kennedy Center Honors in December, but the induction ceremony was postponed because of Mr. Frey’s health. His death follows other major losses in rock music: David Bowie succumbed to cancer on Jan. 10, as did “Lemmy” Kilmister of the heavy-metal band Motorhead, on Dec. 28.
Mr. Frey (pronounced “fry”) met Henley, a singer and drummer, at the raucous Troubadour nightclub in Los Angeles in 1971. They founded the band later that year with the addition of guitarist Bernie Leadon and bassist Randy Meisner.
The easygoing country-rock melodies of the band’s self-titled 1972 debut seemed to embody the sunny Southern California aesthetic, with touches of a darker side in songs such as Mr. Frey’s “Most of Us Are Sad.”
With a friend and former housemate — a folk poet named Jackson Browne — Mr. Frey wrote the group’s first single, “Take It Easy,” a mantra of sorts for a band that came to be defined by its laid-back, pot-inflected demeanor onstage.
The song reached No. 12 on the charts that summer and was the first in a string of accomplishments: six Grammy Awards, five No. 1 singles, six No. 1 albums, and more than 150 million records sold, including two of the best-selling albums of all time, “Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)” and “Hotel California,” each of which sold tens of millions of copies. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
Offstage, Mr. Frey was known for his tumultuous love life and drug use. Referring to the notorious Hollywood ladies’ man, People magazine described him in 1982 as “the Warren Beatty of rock ’n’ roll.”
The band achieved chart-topping success with their albums “Desperado” (1973), “On the Border” (1974), and “One of These Nights” (1975), which featured the top-10 singles “Lyin’ Eyes,” “Take It to the Limit” and the title track, all co-written by Mr. Frey.
Its follow-up, “Hotel California,” spent nine weeks at No. 1, driven by the strength of its epic, mysterious title track, which Mr. Frey wrote with Henley and Don Felder. The song, which Henley has called the band’s “interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles,” features references to marijuana buds and was originally titled “Mexican Reggae.”
Success — what musician and writer Ed Sanders described as “wall-to-wall women, moola, music, touring and attention” — created rifts in the band. Leadon and Meisner quit in the mid-1970s. The disastrous 18-month production of “The Long Run” (1979), the band’s aptly titled “Hotel California” follow-up, culminated in a backstage fight and Mr. Frey’s decision to quit the band in 1980.
“I would say it’s simply a case of, ‘We made it and it ate us,’ ” he told People magazine two years later. “There was no way of escaping the pressure of being on top. Don and I couldn’t talk about girls or football for very long before our discussion had to turn to some huge problem facing the Eagles.”
Mr. Frey embarked on a sometimes strange second act, starring in commercials for a fitness center chain in the mid-1980s and making a memorable, one-episode appearance on the television series “Miami Vice” as a guitar-playing smuggler. He appeared in the series “Wiseguy” and “South of Sunset.”
He found solo success with the hit singles “The Heat Is On” (1985), featured in the soundtrack to the Eddie Murphy film “Beverly Hills Cop,” and “Smuggler’s Blues” from “Miami Vice.”
Despite sometimes tense relations with Henley, the pair reconciled and reunited the Eagles for “Hell Freezes Over” (1994), which mixed live tracks and new material, and a subsequent tour.
The band continued recording and touring in recent years, releasing “Long Road Out of Eden,” their first full studio album in 28 years, in 2007.
Glenn Lewis Frey was born in Detroit on Nov. 6, 1948. He grew up in Royal Oak, Mich., the son of a machinist father.
He excelled in academics and athletics in childhood and began playing piano at 5, immersing himself in music and especially rock guitar. As a teenager, he played in bands across Michigan, notably with a group called the Mushrooms that cut a record produced by Bob Seger.
Before long, he headed to California and immersed himself in the music scene, eventually joining with Henley. They soon began performing in a band backing singer Linda Ronstadt.
In a 2013 interview with the London Daily Telegraph, Henley recalled his early days with Mr. Frey as being “like the odd couple.”
“We had a routine: Every day we’d get up, shake off the hangover and start writing songs. I think it was a good balance. Glenn was very spontaneous and uninhibited, he would just sit down with the guitar and start throwing it out there.”
His first marriage, to Janie Beggs, ended in divorce. In 1990, he married Cindy Millican, with whom he had three children. A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.
He seemed amused by the difficulty many listeners had in interpreting the lyrics of hits such as “Hotel California,” telling the New York Times in 2013 that “the best meanings” are “the unintended ones. The misinterpretations.”