“Take It Easy” became one of the Eagles’ signature songs – but it originally belonged to someone else.

Jackson Browne had emerged as a rising songwriter in the late ‘60s, first as a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band before branching out as a solo performer. He was recording his self-titled debut in 1971 when inspiration for “Take It Easy” struck during a sessions break.

“I took a road trip in this old beat-up Willys Jeep and I went to Utah and Arizona,” Browne told Uncut in 2010. “On that trip, I started to write ‘Take It Easy.’”

He continued working on the song upon returning to Los Angeles, but couldn't quite finish. That's when close friend Glenn Frey decided to stopped in, and Browne shared his latest idea.

“Glenn happened to come by to say hi when I was in the studio and I showed him the beginnings of that song and he asked if I was gonna put it on my record and I said it wouldn’t be ready in time. He said, ‘Well, we'll put it on; we'll do it,’" Browne said in a subsequent radio interview. "But it wasn’t finished, and he kept after me to finish it.”

Listen to Jackson Browne's Version of 'Take It Easy'

Though this may have been the first time Browne played the song for Frey, it wasn’t necessarily the first time Frey heard it. At the time, they were neighbors in Echo Park, Calif. Frey had the upstairs unit, while Browne was on the lower floor.

“I used to sit and listen to Jackson,” Frey later admitted. “Jackson was very pragmatic; he wrote every day. That blew my mind. Every night, he would be working on a song of his, and I would hear him working on all the stuff for his first album through the floorboards.”

Browne’s recollection was that he eventually gave away the song after Frey “offered to finish it himself” on several occasions. But Frey recalled the circumstances around “Take It Easy” slightly differently in a conversation with Cameron Crowe that was included in the Eagles’ 2003 Very Best Of compilation.

“I told [Browne] that I really liked it,” Frey said. “He started playing it for me and said, ‘Yeah, but I don’t know — I’m stuck.’ So he played the second unfinished verse and I said, ‘It’s a girl, my lord, in a flatbed Ford, slowin’ down to take a look at me.’ That was my contribution to 'Take It Easy,' really, just finishing the second verse. Jackson was so thrilled. He said, “Okay! We cowrote this.’”

Regardless of exactly how the co-write materialized, the result was the same: “Take It Easy” became the Eagles’ first single on May 1, 1972, and the opening track of their own self-titled debut album. The track quickly became popular with listeners who were drawn to its distinctive country-rock sound. “Take It Easy” would peak at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the first of many Eagles’ hits.

Listen to Eagles Version of 'Take It Easy'

Reflecting on the song decades later, Browne and Frey continued to credit one another.

“It’s certainly more of him,” Frey told Crowe, likening the version he originally heard of “Take It Easy” to a “package without the ribbon.” “He already had the lines about Winslow, Ariz. He’d had car trouble and broken down there on one of his trips to Sedona. He spent a long day in Winslow.”

Browne likewise told radio listeners that Frey made the track whole. “He finished it in spectacular fashion. And, what's more, arranged it in a way that was far superior to what I had written."

In the end, the legacy of “Take It Easy” mattered most. “I don’t know that we could have ever had a better opening song on our first album,” Frey confessed. “Just those open chords felt like an announcement, ‘And now … the Eagles.’”

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