It occurs to me that certain events serve as bookends for different stages of my life. One such set of my bookends are two Eagles concerts; the first in the late 1970s at the Boston Garden and the second just a few years ago at the Hollywood Bowl.
The first, while I was still in college, so sure of what I wanted to do with my life (spend a couple of years in Paris before becoming a celebrated, best-selling novelist and then live the ultimate New York life — cocktail parties with the literati, an amazing apartment on the Upper East Side, signings at Doubleday on Fifth Avenue, shopping sprees at Bloomingdale’s and Saks). The second, where I am today, knowing what I really want to do with my life (write for a living and make myself happy, live in LA, spend the occasional weekday afternoon delightedly browsing and shopping for other people’s bestsellers at Barnes and Noble).
While Don, Glenn and the boys sang about peaceful, easy feelings, I enjoyed the (relative) ease of being a college student, somewhat unaware of life’s challenges just waiting for me as the final notes of the graduation recessional faded. They sang about tequila sunrises while I pulled all-nighters writing what were probably the millionth and millionth-plus-one papers that were the albatross of an English Lit major. And when they checked into the Hotel California, I was checking to make sure I had enough credits to graduate. (Okay, I must have checked and rechecked that number on a regular basis. Let’s just say I checked into the Hotel Neurotic. And it’s true what they sang — you can check out … but you can never leave.)
Now place the needle a little further along on the record (or hit skip ahead on the iPod) to all the years in between — from new jobs and new friends, to broken dates and broken hearts, to high heels and high towers in the city. The Eagles disbanded from 1980 through the early 1990s and then banded together again just as all the important pieces of my life came together — moving from book lessons to life lessons, from East Coast to West Coast, from yearning to be somewhere else and to knowing I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. (Coincidence? You decide.) They sang about love keeping us alive as I was finally understanding the life force of real love.
Glenn Frey’s recent passing hurts my heart. Not only because I truly loved his music and his voice but because his (and the Eagles’) music was always there in the background, spanning the years as I grew from a college student to who I am today. It was a given that an Eagles song playing on the radio (or queuing up on the iPod) could always give me a sense of rootedness, a sense of comfort, a sense of knowing who I was even as I changed my life. Glenn Frey and the Eagles defined and spanned the music of my regeneration.
The Eagles at the Hollywood Bowl were a revelation. Because despite the years, the tears, and the wear and tear of life, they sounded amazing, their harmonies better than ever. Maybe it’s because they were older and had been polished down by life, the hard edges and the uncertainties smoothed, that their ballads sounded exquisite in the nighttime air. Their performance of There’s a Hole in the World Tonight resonated not only with echoes of the reason it was written — 9/11 — but also with a nod to all of the losses in life that we have each encountered. And their performance of Peaceful, Easy Feeling resonated with the hopes we all have as we get older of continuing to make our lives well lived, well loved, well satisfied.
Rock on, Glenn Frey — you’ve earned those wings.
ⓒ 2016 Claudia Grossman