Top 10 Glenn Frey Solo Songs
Glenn Frey‘s solo career was bound to be overlooked, considering he’d scored a pile of Top 40 hits – including two chart-toppers – as a member of the Eagles. Like his longtime bandmate Don Henley, Frey was determined to explore as far outward as possible from the group’s core country-rocking sound.
He worked with Bob Seger early on, when Frey was still an aspiring songwriter in his native Detroit, and then later, throughout the Eagles years, he worked with Jack Tempchin. Those relationships continued into the solo period that followed the band’s breakup. Frey dabbled (and often quite successfully) in soundtrack work, contributing hit songs to TV’s Miami Vice and movies like Beverly Hills Cop and Thelma and Louise, among others. He returned to one of early rock’s most distinctive sounds, making the saxophone a central element in his work – something that couldn’t be further away from the Eagles’ aesthetic. Then Frey went further, stirring in synthesizers and programming and, much later, singing pre-rock standards.
A flurry of post-Eagles activity led to two gold-selling albums in the early ’80s, but Frey had only one Top 40 song after 1985 – and, into the next decade, the Eagles mounted a long-awaited reunion. Frey would release only one more solo project: 2012’s covers-focused After Hours.
As the years passed, and his initial successes faded further in the rear-view, it perhaps became easy to forget Frey’s best moments outside of the Eagles. The list of Top 10 Glenn Frey Solo Songs makes for a great primer.
“You Belong to the City”
The video for “You Belong to the City” – which finds Frey slipping into the Miami Vice uniform of shoulder-padded pastel suit and T-shirt – makes clear the song’s elemental connection to the TV show. Unlike those fashion choices, however, Frey’s love of this track didn’t immediately fade. “You Belong to the City” later found a home, complete with plaintive sax, in the reunited Eagles’ playlists (though it had been absent for a decade or so before Frey’s death in 2016).
“This Way to Happiness”
Frey attached this Jack Tempchin co-written song to a solo compilation, again relying on a muscular saxophone to get things going. But once he settles into the lyrics, “This Way” recalls all of the weary darkness that made Frey’s best Eagles-era songs so resonant. He completes things with an R&B-kissed Motor City rave-up in the chorus.
“The Heat Is On”
This became the first of two soundtrack songs to go to No. 2 for Frey as he began building a second career as an actor. In the song’s video, which received wall-to-wall airplay on MTV back in the day, Frey is prominently featured with an electric guitar – but it’s no stage prop: He played the solo on the original recording, too.
“He Took Advantage”
In the popular imagination, Frey’s bandmate Don Henley was always considered the political one – but as this song’s subtitle (“Blues for Ronald Reagan”) shows, he wasn’t the only one. Forget the agenda for a moment, and the impressively bluesy “He Took Advantage” could just as easily be seen as a moment of heartbreak over any kind of love gone wrong.
One of just three solo-written tracks on a No. 22 album dominated by collaborations with Jack Tempchin, the next entry in our list of Top 10 Glenn Frey Solo Songs recalls the dreamy reverie of signature Eagles cuts like “Tequila Sunrise.” A wonder of reserve, considering Frey’s then-current penchant for ’80s-style production touches, “Lover’s Moon” sets the stage for the delicately conveyed After Hours.
“I Found Somebody”
Frey’s first solo single reached only No. 31, a far cry from his last Eagles-sung smash, 1979’s No. 1 “Heartache Tonight.” But “I Found Somebody” is of a piece both lyrically and musically. (Well, aside from the saxophone stuff, of course.) In fact, it could almost be a sequel, as Frey looks at what happens when someone finally finds love after an awful breakup.
A Detroit native, Frey came by his passion for soul music honestly, but he didn’t always have success replicating those deep grooves. Frey actually apologized in Soul Searchin’‘s liner notes for dabbling so often in R&B away from the Eagles. (“I just can’t shake my obsession with this Al Green-Memphis thing,” he wrote.) When it connects like the No. 13 smash “True Love,” there’s no need to say you’re sorry.
Frey got his start with help from Bob Seger, appearing as a sideman on Seger’s 1968 single “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man.” (Seger also worked on an album by one of the future Eagles star’s early bands.) They remained close, co-composing songs long after Frey left Michigan for California – including “Heartache Tonight” and this touching deep cut from Frey’s first solo outing.
“The One You Love”
Glenn Frey’s first Top 20 hit also sets a kind of solo template, beginning with what became the expected blast of sax – this time from jazz legend Ernie Watts – before settling into something else. With “The One You Love,” Frey returns to the sad resignation of “Lyin’ Eyes” and “New Kid in Town,” something that always lived on the flip side of his girl-chasing hell-raiser persona. He’s never sounded more desolate.
Though justifiably famous for its mini-movie music video, which led to a guest-starring role on Miami Vice, “Smuggler’s Blues” was more than a screen test. One of Frey’s very best rockers, this growling, dark-hearted Jack Tempchin co-write ultimately has far more in common with “Already Gone” than “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” And there’s no getting around its narrative strength. Michael Mann didn’t just invite Frey to appear on Miami Vice; he wrote the entire episode based around our No. 1 item on the Top 10 Glenn Frey Solo Songs list.