Founding member Glenn Frey’s health problems will force the Eagles to defer their Kennedy Center Honor until 2016. The band, famous for hits such as “Take It Easy,” “Already Gone,” and “Hotel California,” had been scheduled to be part of the Dec. 6 ceremony along with singer-songwriter Carole King, filmmaker George Lucas, actress Rita Moreno, conductor Seiji Ozawa, and actress Cicely Tyson.
But the Eagles, in a statement released Wednesday, said that Frey, 66, has had a recurrence of “previous intestinal issues, which will require major surgery and a lengthy recovery period.”
Those issues date back to the 1980s, when Frey spoke about the damage he believed he had done to his body during the band’s heyday, when drugs and alcohol flowed freely. In 1986, he missed a reunion with his longtime bandmate Don Henley – the band had broken up for the first time in 1980 – at a benefit concert in California because of an intestinal disorder. An attempt to reform the Eagles in 1990 was put off, in part, because of surgery to remove a large part of Frey’s intestine. And in 1994, their “Hell Freezes Over” reunion tour was interupted by Frey’s bout with diverticulitis. It resumed the following year.
In the statement, the band thanked the Kennedy Center for postponing until next year, when “when all four Eagles, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmit, can attend.” Larry Solters, a band spokesman, said Frey, Henley, other band members and management were not available for additional comment.
The Eagles, formed in Los Angeles in 1971 by Frey, Henley, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner, were known for driving the country rock sound of the late ’60s onto the record charts, with such hits as “Take It Easy,” “Desperado” and “Lyin’ Eyes.” Later, bringing in guitarists Joe Walsh and Don Felder, the band beefed up its sound, leading to 1976’s critically-acclaimed smash, “Hotel California.”
Along with its distinctive sound, the band became famous for its partying. Frey, sporting a droopy moustache and bloodshot eyes, was often at the center. Band members blamed drugs and the pressures of being in a successful band on its decision to split in 1980. At that point, Frey quit drugs, launched a solo career and became so committed to his health he did advertisements for a gym.
The Eagles reunited in 1994, released a new studio album in 2007, and have toured regularly. They wrapped up their “History of the Eagles” tour in July.
The Honors Gala will be broadcast on CBS on Dec. 29. Kennedy Center officials declined to comment on how losing the Eagles, only weeks before the production, will alter the show, nor would they make Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss – who are taking over the production after 37 years under George Stevens Jr. – available for interviews.
This was to be the first year that there were six honorees, not five. No decision has been made on whether to go back to five honorees or try for six next year, said Eileen Andrews, the Kennedy Center’s vice president of public relations.
“We send our best wishes to Glenn for a swift and full recovery,” said Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter in a statement. “It felt only right to defer bestowing this extraordinary honor to the group when Glenn could also be in attendance. We look forward to the Eagles’ participation in the 2016 Honors.”
This is not the first time an honoree has deferred an award. In 2002, Paul McCartney postponed his acceptance because of personal plans already set. He received his award in 2010.