Glenn Frey's 5 best songs

Glenn Frey's greatest hits
Glenn Frey's greatest hits

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Story highlights

  • Glenn Frey wrote many of the most indelible songs of the '70s
  • The Eagles founding member died Monday at 67

(CNN)It was hard to turn on the radio in the 1970s without hearing a song by Glenn Frey.

The founding member of the Eagles, who died Monday at age 67, co-wrote or sang almost all of the band's biggest hits such as "Tequila Sunrise," "New Kid in Town" and "Heartache Tonight."
Whatever you may think of the country-tinged California rock band -- some critics hated them -- there's no denying that Frey and chief songwriting partner Don Henley had a gift for graceful melodies and resonant lyrics. And Frey, with his square-jawed good looks and smooth tenor, made a fine frontman.
Here are five of Frey's greatest songs. With apologies to his '80s solo career (sorry, "You Belong to the City"), they're all from his days with the Eagles.

'Hotel California'

Yes, this epic is an obvious choice -- but it's also the band's defining artistic statement. Frey and Henley co-wrote the lyrics, with Don Felder penning the music and that extended guitar solo at the end.
The song is about ... well, what, exactly? From "the warm smell of colitas" (that's Spanish for marijuana buds) to "you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave," its lyrics begged for interpretation. Both Frey and Henley spent decades answering questions about the song's meanings, which were rumored to include heroin addiction and Satan worship.
Henley has said the song was "our interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles," while Frey has described it as "a look at the seamy underbelly of L.A. -- the flip side of fame and failure, love and money." The "hotel" is probably a metaphor for that seductive, fast-lane lifestyle, which the Eagles embraced and later rejected.
A side note: the line "they stab it with their steely knives ..." was a hidden reference to Steely Dan, who had name-checked the Eagles in their song, "Everything You Did."

'Lyin' Eyes'

Frey sings lead on this six-minute country ditty about a lonely young woman cheating on her sugar-daddy husband. He and Henley got the idea for the song one night at an L.A. bar, Dan Tana's, when they spotted a pretty young woman with a fat older guy. Frey turned to Henley and said, "She can't even hide those lyin' eyes."
The song, whose chorus features some of the Eagles' loveliest harmonies, was a hit on the country charts as well as the pop charts. In a clever lyrical twist, the woman's "lyin' eyes" are directed not just at her husband but also at her young boyfriend, whom she appears to be stringing along.

'Take It Easy'

Yes, Jackson Browne wrote most of this catchy tune. But when he got stumped part way through, he turned to his pal Frey, who finished the second verse starting with "such a fine sight to see / It's a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford, slowin' down to take a look at me."
Frey sang lead vocals on the song, which became the Eagles' first hit, a fan favorite and an enduring concert encore.

'One of These Nights'

After three years of mostly mellow, acoustic music, the Eagles embraced a harder, electric sound on this title track from their fourth album. Buoyed by growling guitar licks and the band's trademark harmonies, it became a No. 1 hit.
"It was a breakthrough song. It is my favorite Eagles record," Frey said on the liner notes to one of the band's greatest-hits collections. "If I ever had to pick one, it wouldn't be 'Hotel California'; it wouldn't be 'Take It Easy.' For me, it would be 'One Of These Nights.' "

'Desperado'

This lover's plea to a lone-wolf cowboy began as a song fragment written by Henley, who recruited new friend Frey to help finish it.
"Glenn leapt right on it -- filled in the blanks and brought structure," Henley said later. "And that was the beginning of our songwriting partnership. ... That's when we became a team."
Frey played piano on the Old West-themed ballad, which reinforced the Eagles' outlaw image. "Desperado" was never a hit, but it struck a chord with fans and quickly became a concert staple. It's since been covered by everyone from Neil Diamond to Diana Krall to Johnny Cash.
Many fans on social media quoted the line "It may be raining, but there's a rainbow above you" in tribute to Frey after his death.