Some years ago, when one of my books was being read as a project by an entire county, I spoke to a middle school--something like 700 kids in the audience. At the end of my talk, I asked for questions, and as usual for kids that age, they were blunt and often very funny.
Then one kid stood and yelled, "What is your favorite band?" I wasn't expecting the question at all and didn't have time to think, so I said the first thing that came to mind. I was ready for looks of confusion and even incomprehension. This was about 10 years back, so I supposed they would never have heard of music from my era. But I said it anyway: "the Eagles."
I thought I'd be able to hear a pin drop. Instead, the place absolutely exploded. Kids were screaming and shaking their fists, standing on their chairs, cheering and clapping. These were kids born in the early 90s.
I was stunned. They LOVED the Eagles, knew their music, wanted desperately to cheer for them.
It was a good lesson, that things people really love have no sell-by date.
I wish people didn't, either, but Glenn Frey's shocking death Monday in New York makes it clear that while what we do can live forever, our physical bodies won't.
We've lost so many people in the past few weeks, almost too many to count. But Frey's death feels much more personal to me, more like the death of John Lennon or John Denver. I love the Eagles because they were primarily a vocal band with unsurpassed harmonies. Sure they were a country-rock band and sometimes straight rockers, but first and always came the vocal harmony, tight as a drum head and smooth as melting butter.
I've watched the film History of the Eagles more times than I want to say. It makes me happy in a way that's hard to describe. About a group of kids who had a dream and made it come true.
One of the things the film really left out, though, is how well the Eagles fit their time. I was in college during the Vietnam War, and all of us guys were scared to death we'd have to go to that ghastly mistake, even die there for no good reason at all. As the war was winding down, the Eagles hit the airwaves with "Peaceful Easy Feeling," and it made us feel like we could breathe and be happy again. Sure, it was just a three-minute pop song. But it was also a gift to a war-weary world, a deep, cleansing breath and a promise that we had a future, come what may of it.
So Glenn Frey's death hits us hard, people of my age. No, the Eagles didn't sing blues, weren't heirs of Robert Johnson, were a little too white-bread for those who loved punk and hard rock. But for some of us, their music was, and always will be, the soundtrack of our lives.
You did good, Glenn. Go rest high upon that mountain.