With not one but two of the best-selling albums of all time to their name, The Eagles have been enshrined in the fabric of pop culture for almost half a century.
But, because their sound was so intentionally slick, it’s easy to overlook their earthy blend of roots influences.
Here’s our list of the best country-influenced tunes they ever made:
While it's one of the band’s most iconic songs, ‘Tequila Sunrise’ does give off a whiff of schmaltz. Lead guitarist Bernie Leadon summons twang much in the same way ‘50s lounge records evoked a make-believe image of Hawaii.
When you hear the song come up on the jukebox at your local bar though, it makes perfect sense, as Glenn Frey (who had concerns about the lyrics being too literal) sings about having “liquid courage".
The Eagles rode the line between earthy and contrived, solemn and syrupy. For better or worse, they were good at it.
On ‘Hollywood Waltz,’ they condense the melodrama of a Broadway musical into an organic, rootsy framework.
If Billy Joel had ever written a country song and then presented it to The Band, it might have sounded like this.
The cavernous ambience of ‘Doolin’ Dalton’ recalls the classic age of vocalists recording albums with full orchestras, even though the song is devoid of any orchestral elements.
Meanwhile, Don Henley manages to turn the hokey into the sublime — or is it the opposite? or both? — when he sings “the towns lay out across the dusty plains / like graveyards filled with tombstones, waitin' for the names”.
Recorded right at the midway point in the band’s steady transition from country/roots rock to a more typical AOR-oriented approach, ‘Already Gone’ captures many hallmark Eagles elements.
With country guitar in the left channel and rock guitar in the right, they provide memorable hooks galore and vocal harmonies that seem to be made of ozone.
With ‘Saturday Night,’ The Eagles marry CSN-styled harmonies to medieval-tinged UK folk and hints of American roots music. As was so often the case, the band executes this blend so smoothly that the song almost slips by unnoticed.
Pay close attention, though, and you’ll get a sense of just how stacked with songwriting talent The Eagles actually were.
The Eagles could sometimes be so proficient that they risked sterilizing their own songs.
But this serene ballad - the lone country-styled holdover on their blockbuster smash Hotel California - somehow sounds unassuming without being featureless.
Playing straight country wasn’t The Eagles’ strong suit, but they created such seamless genre hybrids that they often made it hard to notice how inventive a band they could be.
With ‘Best of My Love,’ The Eagles blend country with AM soft rock à la Seals and Crofts’ ‘Summer Breeze’ and America’s ‘A Horse with No Name.’
An early-career attempt at straight, uptempo bluegrass, ‘Twenty One’ stands out for the sawdust it kicks up in contrast to the band’s usual penchant for gloss.
The studio polish is still there, but it’s applied in the most discreet way, as two lead guitar runs towards the end finally break the rustic mood.
Blurring the line between country and folk, ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’ highlights the upside of Bernie Leadon’s facility with twang.
To say the least, his dreamy but tasteful lead work matches the “sparkle” that Glenn Frey references in the opening verse.
Also of note is the hilarious cameo the song makes in The Big Lebowski.
If you’re looking for the quintessential blend of ‘70s arena rock and Southern rock with country-influenced vocal hooks, look no further than ‘Good Day in Hell'.
The track rumbles along like an 18-wheeler and showcases one of Don Felder's first signature additions to the band’s sound on guitar.
Here's a spare ballad that twinkles under the starlight of Bernie Leadon’s pedal steel. one can imagine ‘My Man’ being played around a campfire as two acoustic guitars lazily strum away as the song begins.
The Eagles were often chided by critics for lacking heat. Here, though, their sense of steadiness becomes a major asset. In the final 15 seconds, the band glides free of the chord progression, ever so tastefully hinting at what the band could do with song structure.
‘Lyin’ Eyes’ is probably the closest The Eagles ever came to crafting a sound befitting of the country charts.
No surprise then that it reached the highest position of their three classic-era songs on Billboard’s Hot Country chart, peaking at number 8.
It's easy to see why - replace Michigan native Glenn Frey’s enunciation style with a Texan or Tennessean accent and ‘Lyin Eyes’ would be virtually indistinguishable from mainstream country music circa 1975.
Another high-energy bluegrass workout, Bernie Leadon’s nimble banjo work takes center stage alongside airy Beach Boys-styled vocal harmonies.
This time, though, the band peppers the arrangement with flare gunshots of flanged-out guitar, something that was ubiquitous on ‘70s rock radio.
What starts out as The Eagles’ take on a jamboree transforms into arguably one of the smoothest, most imaginative country-rock hybrids of its day.
Right from the outset of their debut album, The Eagles showed just how adept they were at shoehorning country elements into timeless pop hooks, bound for eternal life on American commercial radio.
There’s probably no more universal a sentiment than the desire to take it easy, and The Eagles couldn’t have captured it more perfectly here in sound and spirit.
Kudos to Bernie Leadon and producer Glyn Johns for tucking Leadon’s rather busy banjo part into such a laid-back groove.
Three days away from breaking up, this performance was recorded at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in 1980.
The Eagles’ a cappella rendition of the Steve Young standard showcases the band’s five-way harmonies better than anything in their catalog.
Sure, they essentially stole the arrangement from English singer/songwriter Iain Matthews, but there’s no denying the power of the moment, or the connection it made with the crowd that night. The band used to warm up backstage by singing the tune together and, for a time, would stun audiences into silence by opening their sets with it.
A haunting, beautiful piece of music that seems to convey the passage of time as if it were being carried on the wind, ‘Seven Bridges Road’ serves as a fitting bookend to a remarkable career.
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