When a seminal rock band loses a member, does it make sense for the rest of the group to go on? Some have tried it: the Commodores managed to have a couple of hit songs after Lionel Richie’s departure, and Fleetwood Mac gamely tried to record and tour with and without various members.
But what happens when a founding member of one of these great bands passes away? The Who and Queen are two examples of bands who have made it work after the passing of a key member, but most bands call it quits or move on in some other way. Despite their virtual reunions for the Anthology box set series, the Beatles never officially got back together, especially after John Lennon’s death. The Grateful Dead kept going after Jerry Garcia’s passing, albeit with a slightly different name.
One quintessential classic rock outfit has decided to get back together to headline a bi-coastal music festival a year and a half after the death of one of their founders. The Eagles will play the Classic East and Classic West festivals this July alongside a lineup that sounds like a baby boomer’s dream: Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan, Earth Wind & Fire, the Doobie Brothers, and Journey. The band chose two men to replace founding member Glenn Frey: one choice inspired, and the other intriguing.
Frey’s 24-year-old son Deacon will take the place of his dad alongside country music stalwart Vince Gill. Eagles co-founder, drummer, and co-lead singer Don Henley tells the tale to the Los Angeles Times:
“While I was still in shock during some interviews after Glenn passed away, I did say that I thought that was the end of the band,” Don Henley, 69, said recently after rehearsals for the upcoming festivals, set for July 15 and 16 at Dodger Stadium and July 29 and 30 at Citi Field in New York.
“But I reserve the right to change my mind. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.’”
Deacon Frey became an obvious choice to stand in his father’s stead after he sang some of his dad’s songs at a memorial service last year. Gill, whose honey-smooth voice has led him to 21 Grammys — the most for any country male vocalist — became a frontrunner for Eagle status after he performed at a Kennedy Center Honors tribute to the band in December. Here’s Deacon performing with his father at the House of Blues in Los Angeles in 2009:
The Eagles’ longtime manager Irving Azoff told the Los Angeles Times how clear the choice became to include the younger Frey and Gill:
“After he saw Deacon at that service, Don always said that ‘If there’s ever going to be a gig for all of us, I would want Deacon to be part of it,’ ” Irving Azoff, the Eagles’ longtime manager, said in a separate interview. “It was the natural thing.”
The idea of Gill came up when he was at the Kennedy Center Honors program in December saluting the Eagles.
“I think with Glenn’s passing, there was also a natural legion of Eagles fans out there who weren’t ready to let go,” Azoff said. “To me, the fans and the legacy and everything was saying, ‘It doesn’t have to be over.’”
Azoff is also the brainchild behind the Classic East and Classic West festivals. Henley has hinted that the festivals serve as a trial run for continuing as the Eagles with their new additions, though no decision to record, stream, or broadcast the reunion shows has come down the pike as of yet.
And Henley has a clear message for those who line up against the idea of a reunited Eagles:
“I’m not going to spend a lot of time defending this, because I don’t see anything wrong with it. I think we’re carrying on a family tradition in a very family type way.”
It sounds like a wonderful idea. Now, if only they would bring Don Felder back into the fold…