He was a singer-songwriter, guitarist and actor born in Detroit, Michigan, and growing up in Royal Oak Michigan. He began his interest in music by starting piano lessons when he was five years old, which he continued with until he approached his teenage years. After becoming acquainted with The Beatles in 1964 he decided the guitar was for him and threw himself into learning the instrument.
He started his career in the late 1960s when he was a member of the group The Mushrooms who released the single “Such a Lovely Child”, produced by Bob Seger . He then went on to join Four of Us and later formed The Heavy Metal Kids and The Subterraneans. In 1968 he performed background vocals and guitar for Bob Seger on “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” and they would later collaborate on songwriting.
Moving to California, he formed the duo Longbranch Pennywhistle in 1969 in Los Angeles with J.D. Souther who showed him the way of performing country music and they proceeded to land a recording contract and release a self-titled album. In 1971 he became a backing singer for Linda Ronstadt along with Don Henley, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner on her Silk Purse tour and thus the ultra-successful The Eagles were born. He became a co-founder of the band, playing keyboards and guitar as well as often singing lead vocals on hits that included “Desperado”, “Hotel California”, “New Kid in Town”, “One of These Nights ” to name just a few.
After they disbanded in the 1980s he moved onto a solo career releasing several albums and the hit single “Smuggler’s Blues” and found success with songs for soundtracks including “The Heat is On” for Beverly Hills Cop, “You Belong to the City” for Miami Vice. He has also had other songs appear in Ghostbusters II and Thelma and Louise.
Often working as a session musician with other artists, he performed with acts such as Jackson Browne, Ry Cooder, Dan Fogelberg, Doug Kershaw, Little River Band, Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman, Jo Osborn, John Prine, Carly Simon , Conway Twitty and Warren Zevon among many others.
The albums he appeared on are numerous and a select few include his own The Allnighter, No Fun Aloud, Soul Searchin’ and Strange Weather as well as Last Mango in Paris by Jimmy Buffett , Desperado, Hell Freezes Over, Hotel California, Long Run, On the Border and One of These Nights by The Eagles , Inside Job by Don Henley , 21 at 33 by Elton John , 80 by B.B. King, Don’t Cry Now by Linda Ronstadt , Hits! by Boz Scaggs , Stranger in Town by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, John David Souther by J.D. Souther , Trouble in Paradise by the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, and So What by Joe Walsh .
He acted in several roles in TV series including Miami Vice, Wiseguy and Nash Bridges, and appeared in the film Jerry Maguire. Cameron Crowe based the character of the lead guitarist in Almost Famous on him.
The Eagles reformed in the early 1990s and he recorded and toured with them as well as setting up the record label Mission Records. In 1998 he and the other members of The Eagles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Around the turn of the new millennium he was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
In 2007 they released Long Road Out of Eden and began their supporting tour which ran from 2008 to 2011. In 2012 he released After Hours which was his first solo album in 20 years. Also that year, along with Don Henley, Tim Schmit and Joe Walsh, Berklee College of Music awarded him an honorary Doctorate of Music. In 2013 the Emmy Award documentary History of Eagles was broadcast and they embarked on two year world tour. Their final concert was in Louisiana in July 2015 which would be his final public appearance.
The group were supposed to appear at the Kennedy Center Honors in November 2015 but they postponed due to the fact that he was having intestinal surgery for acute ulcerative colitis. Columbia University Medical Hospital placed him in a medically-induced coma after the surgery and suffering from pneumonia, colitis and complications of rheumatoid arthritis he passed away there in January 2016. He was 67 years old.
Jackson Browne and the remaining Eagles performed “Take It Easy” in his honour at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards and a statue of him was unveiled in Winslow, Arizona, to honour his contributions to songwriting for that same song from 1972 which was the first hit for The Eagles.
Bob Seger recordings
Capitol P-4836 (S96012) (US promo 45)
He is performing “The Heat Is On” …