Before the iconic Eagles took flight, each member was a well-established figure in the country rock realm. Don Henley’s renowned statement about the need for each member to possess a triad of skills – musicality, appearance, and voice – highlights their drive for perfection.
While Henley and Glenn Frey honed their talents alongside Linda Ronstadt, Bernie Leadon traced his lineage to The Flying Burrito Brothers.
Leadon’s journey began in Florida, taking him to the West Coast where he joined country duo Dillard and Clarke, with Byrds’ Gene Clarke.
Making his mark as a country guitarist, he soon found himself invited by Gram Parsons to The Flying Burrito Brothers, offering his versatile guitar talents until the band’s dissolution.
Even as Parsons struggled with his band’s stability, he remained an undeniable force in American music. His influence on the genre caught the attention of rock legends like Keith Richards, becoming an integral part of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Exile on Main St.’ recording period.
As Parsons ventured into his solo career, Ronstadt informed Leadon about Frey and Henley’s budding project. This led to Leadon joining the Eagles, just in time for Randy Meisner, from Poco, to hop on as their bassist.
Across the Eagles’ initial albums, Leadon showcased a mastery in merging country with rock, introducing his distinctive banjo-like guitar riffs combined with fervent energy.
However, the band’s third album, ‘On the Border’, was marred by the devastating news of Parsons’ untimely demise.
The tragic combination of morphine and tequila ended his life. What followed was a surreal and incomplete cremation in Joshua Tree, orchestrated by some of Parsons’ friends. This deeply disturbed Leadon, as he reminisced in ‘Life in the Fast Lane’, condemning the botched send-off.
With his heart heavy, Leadon channeled his emotions into ‘My Man’. The lyrics, though cryptic, clearly convey Leadon’s lament for Parsons, portraying a man who seemingly had everything yet left a void in his wake.
However, as the Eagles soared higher, internal discord grew, especially with the introduction of Don Felder. Their sound began to lean more towards mainstream rock, causing Leadon to reevaluate his place in the band.
Eventually, after multiple differences, Leadon parted ways, making way for Joe Walsh. Despite his departure, Leadon’s heartfelt homage remains one of the Eagles’ most genuine tracks.