The Eagles formed in Los Angeles, California, USA in 1971 with the membership of Glenn Frey (vocals, guitars, harmonica, keyboards), Don Henley (vocals, drums, percussion, guitars), Bernie Leadon (vocals, guitars, mandolin, banjo, pedal steel) and Randy Meisner (vocals, bass, guitarrón). Over the career of the act the band accumulated five number-one singles, six Grammy Awards, five American Music Awards, and six number one albums, to become one of the most successful acts of the 1970s. The act was so successful that by their 20th anniversary, their Greatest Hits (19711975) and Hotel California, were ranked among the 20 best-selling albums in the United States according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Hotel California was ranked 37th in Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" and the band was ranked number 75 on the magazine's 2004 list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
Until the arrival of Michael Jackson's Thriller album their Greatest Hits... was the #1 selling album of all time. They are the fifth-highest-selling music act and the highest-selling American band in U.S. history, having sold more than 150 million records, 100 million in the U.S. alone. Of that number: 42 million copies of Their Greatest Hits (19711975) and 32 million copies of Hotel California.
1972 saw their debut self-titled album spawning three top 40 singles: Take It Easy, Witchy Woman, and Peaceful Easy Feeling. Their next album, Desperado (1973), was a wild west concept album that was less successful by only reaching number 41 on the charts; neither of its singles reached the top 40. The saving grace was two of the band's most popular tracks featured on the album: Desperado and Tequila Sunrise that only succeeded due to performances by other artists.
On the Border arrived in 1974, with the addition of guitarist Don Felder (vocals, guitars, mandolin, banjo, pedal steel) as its fifth member midway through the recording of the album. The album generated two more top 40 singles: Already Gone and their first number one, Best of My Love. The release of this album did not come without drama, however. Henley and Frey wanted the band to break away from the country rock style and move more towards hard rock. The Eagles initially started with Glyn Johns as the producer for this album who had also produced the first two, but he tended to emphasize the lush side of their double-edged music. This caused strife between Johns and the band, and after completing only two songs, the band turned to Bill Szymczyk to produce the rest of the album. Szymczyk liked the idea of the band taking on a more hard rock tone and wanted to start it off right with a harder-edged guitarist for the song Good Day in Hell and the band remembered Bernie Leadon's childhood friend Don Felder, a guitarist who had jammed backstage with the band in 1972 when they opened for Yes in Boston; when asked ... he joined.
Their 1975 album One of These Nights succeeded in offering three top 10 singles: One of These Nights, Lyin' Eyes and Take It to the Limit, the first hitting the top of the charts.
The band was almost at the top of their game and they hit that peak in late 1976 with the release of Hotel California. The album sailed up the charts to sell more than 16 million copies in the U.S. alone and more than 32 million copies worldwide. The album yielded two number-one singles, New Kid in Town and the title track, Hotel California. It was also the first recording to feature Joe Walsh (vocals, guitars, keyboards).
As wonderful as it was to be at the peak of their career, there was internal power struggles in the band. For starts, Don Felder claimed that he had been promised the lead vocal on Victim of Love, a song he had written most of the music. After many unproductive attempts to record Felder's vocal, band manager Irving Azoff was delegated to take Felder out for a meal, removing him from the mix while Don Henley overdubbed his lead vocal. Joe Walsh said that Felder never forgave them for the snub. (Felder denied any hurt feelings in his subsequent book).
The drama wasn't done there. Hotel California was the last album to feature founding member Randy Meisner, who abruptly left the band after the 1977 tour. The band had been touring continuously for eleven months and Meisner was suffering from stomach ulcers and the flu by the time they arrived in Knoxville in July. Frey and Meisner had been continually arguing about Meisner's unwillingness to perform his signature song, Take It To the Limit, during the tour, as Meisner was struggling to hit the crucial high notes in the song due to his ailments. During the following show, Meisner decided to skip the song and when Frey aggressively demanded that he sing it as an encore the two got into a physical confrontation backstage. At the end of the show, Meisner suddenly left the venue. Despite pleas from Felder and Walsh, Meisner decided to leave the group after the final date of the tour and returned to Nebraska to be with his family; his last performance being East Troy, Wisconsin on September 3, 1977. The act replaced Meisner with the same musician who had succeeded him in Poco, Timothy B. Schmit (vocals, bass, acoustic guitar), after agreeing that Schmit was the only candidate.
The politics continued by the time they released their last studio album under the original act in 1979, The Long Run, which spawned three top 10 singles: Heartache Tonight, The Long Run, and I Can't Tell You Why, the lead single being another chart-topping hit.
On July 31, 1980, in Long Beach, California, tempers boiled over into what has been described as the "Long Night at Wrong Beach". The animosity between Felder and Frey boiled over before the show even began. The incident occurred when Felder said, "You're welcome I guess" under his breath to California Senator Alan Cranston's wife as the politician was thanking and shaking the hands of the band backstage for performing a benefit for his reelection. Felder believed that the band should not be offering their services for free to such causes. Frey and Felder spent the entire show on-stage under earshot of the audience telling each other about the beating each planned to administer the other after the show. "Only three more songs until I kick your ass, pal", Frey recalls Felder telling him near the end of the band's set. Felder recalls Frey telling him during "Best of My Love", "I'm gonna kick your ass when we get off the stage!" Felder reportedly left the stage after the show, smashed a guitar off-stage, hopped in his limo and didn't return. A few days later it was announced the act was through.
In 1994 the act reunited for the album Hell Freezes Over, a mix of live and new studio tracks. They have toured consistently since then and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. In 2007, the Eagles released Long Road Out of Eden, their first full studio album in 28 years and their sixth number one album. The next year they launched the Long Road Out of Eden Tour in support of the album. In 2013, they began the extended History of the Eagles Tour in conjunction with the band's documentary release, History of the Eagles.
The story doesn't end there, however. Back on February 6, 2001, Don Felder was fired from the Eagles. He responded by filing two lawsuits against "Eagles, Ltd.", a California corporation; Don Henley, an individual; Glenn Frey, an individual; and "Does 150", alleging wrongful termination, breach of implied-in-fact contract and breach of fiduciary duty, reportedly seeking $50 million in damages. Henley and Frey then countersued Felder for breach of contract, alleging that Felder had written a "tell-all" book titled, Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (19742001). The initial U.S. release of the book was canceled after publisher Hyperion Books backed out in September 2001, when an entire print run of the book had to be recalled for cuts and changes. The American edition was published by John Wiley & Sons on April 28, 2008, with Felder embarking on a full publicity campaign surrounding its release. The book was published in the United Kingdom on November 1, 2007.
On January 23, 2002, the Los Angeles County Court consolidated the two complaints, set a trial date for September 2006, and the single case was dismissed on May 8, 2007, after being settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. The band now consisted of: Frey, Henley, Walsh, and Schmit.
The Very Best Of (2003), the two-disc compilation, was the first that encompassed their entire career from Eagles to Hell Freezes Over. It debuted at number 3 on the Billboard charts and eventually gained triple platinum status.
The remaining Eagles were slated to receive Kennedy Center Honors in 2015, but this was deferred to 2016 due to Frey's medical problems. Those medical issues would return on January 18, 2016 when Frey died in New York City at the age of 67. According to the band's website, the causes of his death were rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia while recovering from intestinal surgery.