When I was a kid, on long drives with my father, he would bet me a hundred-dollar bill that I couldn’t guess a song by its opening notes. It was a giant carrot to dangle, but not exactly a huge risk for him — I never won. Those long journeys between his house and my mother’s, after a weekend visit, were soundtracked by classic rock only, from The Who and Led Zeppelin and The Beatles to Bruce Springsteen and Cream and The Allman Brothers Band. Stevie Nicks’ wobbly creak and Ann Wilson’s manic shriek were the only female voices present, except for mine, eventually.
During “Hotel California,” he would signal with his right hand to let me know when each guitarist in the Eagles was coming in for his solo. “Felder!” at the beginning, and “Walsh!” for the zippy, sexy part. He would note which songs featured Don Henley on lead vocals, and when the warm, sunny voice was Glenn Frey.
When we couldn’t talk about other things, about difficult things, my father and I talked about this. He is, of course, the same age as most of these rockers, so he became a fan in real time. I’d hear about seeing Springsteen in campus basements in New Jersey, and how my mother was hit on by a member of ZZ Top at a bar after their show.
Eventually, I liked all of this music in my own right, not just as a parental homework assignment. My high-school boyfriend and I drove to an Eagles concert in Atlantic City, NJ and hid beers in my purse before Allman Brothers shows. The Rolling Stones come after my Rihanna in my iTunes. I still drop an obscene amount of money on Springsteen tickets.
So when I found out Glenn Frey died, my dad was the first person I texted. Just last week, we discussed David Bowie’s passing, which he took as a personal loss.
And of course, it is. The work of certain celebrities has a great impact on certain lives. Glenn Frey is as big a part of my relationship with my father as my younger brother. His music is as essential as our matching bushy eyebrows. His lyrics are inseparable from my experience of love.
His death hurts, and Bowie’s death hurt, in part because it’s just going to keep happening. My parents’ music became my music, and now those musicians are getting old and sick and passing away. They seem larger than life, but of course they’re not. Frey was 67, only a few years older than my dad. What implication does that hold for his future, and mine?
I’m not quite ready to think about that. So instead, I’ll find solace in YouTube videos of Frey singing, with long flowing hair and ridiculous mustache, circa 1977. And I’ll try to decipher my dad’s text messages:
It’s going to snow on Friday evening. Talk to you soon. Xoxoxo.