Randy Meisner – a founding member of the Eagles who wrote and sang the band’s hit song “Take It to the Limit” – has died at the age of 77.
The bassist and singer died Wednesday night (July 26) in Los Angeles of complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the Eagles said in a released statement on his website Thursday (July 27).
“Randy was an integral part of the Eagles and was instrumental in the band’s early success. His vocal range was amazing, as evidenced in his signature ballad, “Take It to the Limit.”
Dubbed “the sweetest man in the music business” by former bandmate Don Felder, baby-faced Meisner formed a quintessential Los Angeles band and one of the most popular acts in history in the early 1970s along with Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Bernie Leadon.
Evolving from country rock to hard rock, the Eagles produced a string of hit singles and albums over the next decade, beginning with “Take It Easy” through “Desperado”, “Hotel California” and “Life In the Fast Lane”. among other.
Despite being branded slick and shallow by many critics, the Eagles released two of the most popular albums of all time, Hotel California and Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975), which sold 38 million copies according to the Recording Industry Association of America was the No. 1 bestseller with Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”.
Led by singer-songwriters Henley and Frey, the Eagles were initially branded as “mellow” and “easy listening.” But by their third album, 1974’s On the Border, they had added a rock guitarist in Felder and strayed away from country and bluegrass.
Leadon, an old-fashioned bluegrass picker, was unhappy with the new sound and left the band after 1975’s One of These Nights. (He was replaced by another rock guitarist, Joe Walsh.) Meisner stayed until the release of Hotel California, the band’s most acclaimed record, in 1976, but disappeared soon after. Ironically, his departure was prompted by the song “Take It to the Limit,” which he co-wrote and is best known for.
Meisner, a shy Nebrascan torn between fame and family life, was ill and homesick during the Hotel California tour (his first marriage broke up) and was reluctant to begin Take It to the Limit. , a showcase for “Take It to the Limit”, spotlighting his nasal tenor. His objections during a concert in Knoxville, Tennessee in the summer of 1977 angered Frey so much that the two argued backstage and Meisner left soon after. His successor, Timothy B. Schmit, remained with the group in the decades that followed, along with Henley, Walsh and Frey, who died in 2016.
As a solo artist, Meisner never matched the Eagles’ success, but had hits with “Hearts On Fire” and “Deep Inside My Heart” and played on records by Walsh, James Taylor and Dan Fogelberg, among others. Meanwhile, in 1994, the Eagles ended a 14-year hiatus and toured with Schmit, although Meisner had featured on all but one of their previous studio albums. He joined former and current group members in 1998 when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, performing “Take It Easy” and “Hotel California.” For a decade he was part of the World Classic Rockers, a touring group that at various times included Donovan, Spencer Davis and Denny Laine.
Meisner was married twice, the first time when he was a teenager, and had three children.
The son of sharecroppers and grandson of a classical violinist, Meisner played in local bands as a teenager and moved to California in the late 1960s, where he joined the country rock group Poco along with Richie Furay and Jimmy Messina. But he will recall being upset that Furay wouldn’t let him listen to the studio mix of their first album and left the group before it was released: he was succeeded by Timothy B. Schmit.
Meisner supported Ricky Nelson, played on Taylor’s Sweet Baby James album, and became friends with Henley and Frey while they were all in Linda Ronstadt’s band. With Ronstadt’s blessing, they formed the Eagles, were signed to David Geffen’s Asylum Records label, and released their self-titled debut album in 1972.
Frey and Henley sang lead roles most of the time, but Meisner was key to “Take It the Limit.” Appearing on the 1975 album One of These Nights, it became a Top 5 single, a tired, plaintive song later covered by Etta James and as a duet by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.
“The purpose of the whole Eagles thing for me was that combination and chemistry that made all the harmonies sound just perfect,” Meisner told music website LobsterGotTalent in 2015. “The funny thing is, after we made those albums, I never listened to them.” And it’s only when someone comes over or I’m at someone’s house and it’s playing in the background that I’m like, ‘Damn, these records are good .”
Additional coverage from The Associated Press