Farewell to Randy Meisner, 'The Sweetest Man in the Music Business'

Twitter / Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Another one of the legends of classic rock is gone. Randy Meisner, bass player and vocalist for the Eagles and Poco, as well as a solo artist in his own right, has passed away at age 77.

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A shy kid from Nebraska, Meisner learned to play bass by ear and, like so many teen boys of his generation, played in rock bands in high school. He moved to California with a band that would later call itself The Poor — fellow Eagle Don Felder said that the name was perfect because “that is what they became.”

In 1968, Meisner left The Poor (and the band’s actual poverty) behind to audition for a new band called Poco. At the same audition were Gregg Allman and Timothy B. Schmidt, who would go on to succeed Meisner in both Poco and the Eagles. Meisner passed the audition and played on Poco’s first album, but he left before the album’s release.

After Poco, Meisner built an impressive resume, playing bass for James Taylor and Rick Nelson before joining Linda Ronstadt’s band, which would prove fateful. His fellow bandmates backing Rondstadt included Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and Bernie Leadon, and the four went on to form the Eagles.

Meisner was an integral part of the Eagles’ first five albums, playing bass, writing, and singing high harmonies along with the occasional lead. You can hear his remarkable bass playing and high tenor backing vocals on my favorite Eagles cut, “One of These Nights.”

But it was another track from that album that became his signature song. “Take It to the Limit” was the band’s first million-selling single, and Meisner co-wrote and sang lead on it.

“The purpose of the whole Eagles thing to me was that combination and the chemistry that made all the harmonies just sound perfect,” Meisner told an interviewer in 2015. “The funny thing is after we made those albums I never listened to them and it is only when someone comes over or I am at somebody’s house and it gets played in the background that is when I’ll tell myself, ‘Damn, these records are good.’”

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Years of endless touring took their toll on Meisner. The tour to support the “Hotel California” album dragged on, and Meisner had health issues as a result. Frey confronted Meisner about the trouble Meisner was having hitting some high notes, and it led to an altercation.

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Meisner left the band after the tour, citing “exhaustion” as well as a desire to spend more time with his family, but we all know that once you cross Henley or Frey, your time as an Eagle is over. Meisner recorded three solo albums in the late ’70s and early ’80s and had a handful of hit singles.

He rejoined his Poco bandmates for the “Legacy” album in 1989, including lead vocals on the single “Nothin’ to Hide” (which sounded like a “Take It to the Limit” knockoff even though he didn’t write it):

The Eagles snubbed Meisner for the “Hell Freezes Over” reunion in 1994 and subsequent tours, but he did join them when the Eagles were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998:

In later years, Meisner had his share of health issues. Decades-long battles with alcohol continued to resurface, and he struggled with bipolar disorder to the extent that a court placed him under constant medical care in 2015. His wife accidentally shot and killed herself a year later, which made Meisner’s mental health difficulties even worse. He passed away Wednesday night in Los Angeles of complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

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Felder once called him “the sweetest man in the music business,” and the Eagles released a statement, which said in part, “Randy was an integral part of the Eagles and instrumental in the early success of the band. His vocal range was astonishing, as is evident on his signature ballad, ‘Take It to the Limit.’”

I know it’s inevitable, but it’s still sad to see so many of these cultural icons from my childhood passing away. The comforting part is that we still have his music.

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