'I lost every bit of identity': Don Felder opens up on his emotional departure from the Eagles

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For former Eagles guitarist Don Felder, the story of his nearly three decade gap between solo efforts reads like a rock-star biography — with plenty of highs (packed arenas, superstardom) and lows (his sudden divorce).

The divorce happened within 12 months of Felder’s leaving the Eagles, he tells MusicRadar, leaving the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer without much of his identity. Before those personal tragedies in the early 2000s, there was simply the every-day pace of being a member of one of the world’s longest-running acts, and trying to balance that with family responsibilities.

Felder, known today for co-writing “Hotel California” and the 1981 hit “Heavy Metal,” ended up recording five albums with the Eagles between 1974-94 — from On the Border through Hell Freezes Over. The new Road to Forever, featuring all original material from Felder, is due in October.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: The lead single from Don Felder’s long-awaited 2012 solo release, a throw-back, easy-going country rocker, recalls his best days with the Eagles.]

His lone previous solo effort, 1983’s Airborne, arrived during a lengthy hiatus for the country-rock pioneers. Felder says he spent the rest of that period trying to make up for lost time with his family, who had seen little of him during the Eagles’ initial 1970s heyday.

“First of all, the Eagles consume literally 364 days out of the year when you’re in that organization,” Felder tells Joe Bosso of MusicRadar. “I have four kids, and for the first 10 years of their lives, I was an absentee father. So when I did my first solo record in 1983, I decided not to go out on the road ’cause I didn’t want to abandon my kids again. I had been gone for so long, and it was time for me to invest some time and energy with my family.”

By the time the Eagles reformed for 1994’s celebrated Hell Freezes Over album and tour, Felder’s children were old enough to attend his concerts. But his marriage, and his relationship with the Eagles, began to fall apart.

“I really lost every bit of identity that I had,” he says. “The image of rock ‘n’ roll musician was gone; my career was taken away; my friends, or at least those people I thought were my friends, and the band were gone; and my image as a father and a husband — it was all taken away. I was at a place where I really had to figure out what had happened to me in my life to get me to this place in the world.”

As he struggled to make sense of it all, Felder eventually found he’d written enough to form an autobiography called Heaven & Hell: My Life In The Eagles, but even then Felder found he had more to say. He then wrote or co-wrote each of the songs on Road to Forever, singing lead and (of course) playing guitar as well.

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Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on the Eagles. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

FRANK OCEAN ON POSSIBLE LAWSUIT BY EAGLES’ DON HENLEY: AIN’T THIS GUY RICH AS FUCK?: In the wake of a rumored threat from Don Henley to sue over sampling the Eagles’ “Hotel California,” R&B singer Frank Ocean took to the Internet to plead his case: “Shit’s weird. Ain’t this guy rich as fuck? Why sue the new guy?” The Eagles have accused the Odd Future rapper of lifting “the whole master track” for Ocean’s new tune “American Wedding” from their original hit 1976 song. “This is not creative … it’s illegal,” an Eagles spokesman said in a statement. “American Wedding” was included on a free mixtape called Nostalgia. Ocean said that because he never sold the track, it could be seen as a way of paying tribute to the band: “I didn’t make a dime off that song,” Ocean said. “I released it for free. If anything I’m paying homage.”

JOE WALSH – ANALOG MAN (2012): Cleaned up and focused, Walsh can still deftly recall his hell-raising days of youth — tearing into a series of nasty-ass riffs on tracks like “India” and “Funk No. 50,” the last a scalding update of a key moment from his pre-Eagles stint with the James Gang. You’re reminded, all of a sudden, that Joe didn’t just play guitar with a chainsaw menace; he actually carried a chainsaw around. But there’s more to Joe Walsh, and more to this album, than that. Full of raw emotion, frank admissions, fun pop asides and memorable guitar gumption, Analog Man illustrates once more just how complicated this guy always was.

ONE TRACK MIND: TIMOTHY B. SCHMIT, “FRIDAY NIGHT” (2011): It’s like we never left Laurel Canyon. “Friday Night,” a newly issued single from Timothy B. Schmit’s most recent solo release Expando, is deliriously retro, with a welcome warbly assist from special guest Garth Hudson of the Band and a mellow-gold lyric about lighting candles and snuggling up for the weekend. As much as it might feel like a cliche — as much as it very much is a cliche — there’s a sweet melancholy to Schmit’s voice that sells it right past your initial objections. He’s the mediator, the whoa-man in a maelstrom of trouble — a role he’s been playing for years amidst the ever-tumultuous Eagles. Free of all of that, Schmit finally settles into a comfy Americana vibe again.

GIMME FIVE: SONGS WHERE THE EAGLES, WELL, SUCKED: The Eagles have been rightly praised for their canny combining of Glenn Frey’s city-slicker R&B with Don Henley’s country-fried rockabilly. Fans responded by sending every one of their albums to platinum status, including the 16-times smash Hotel California in 1976 and its seven-times platinum follow ups The Long Run and Long Road Out of Eden, from 1979 and 2007 respectively. That said, some of their work simply can’t be received with the best of our love. Over time, the Eagles seemed to settle into imitating their past successes, even as they slowly erased much of their rootsier early sound — not to mention Bernie Leadon. Then there was Henley’s growing voice in the band, if only because he’s always had a tendency toward pedantic, blissfully unaware fingerpointing. Which compelled us to start a list of the five worst offenders.

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