Don Henley Admitted Who The Real Leader Of The Eagles Is

In the mid-to-late '60s, around the time country-folk rock music began to fade out of the zeitgeist, four musicians started their individual treks to the City of Angels. With one hailing from Nebraska, the other from Minnesota, the third from Texas, and the fourth from Michigan, it seemed that the only thing these men had in common was the fact that they were all Los Angeles transplants. However, there was another, bigger similarity they all shared, something so deeply rooted within each and every one of them that it didn't matter if they had zero regional touchstones prior to meeting. That thing was music. With a bit of talent and a lot of right-place-right-time serendipity, these four men — Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon, and Randy Meisner — would go on to form (per AllMusic) one of those most influential rock bands to come out of the '70s: the Eagles.

Behind every successful group, there is someone at the helm, propelling the rest of the band forward. This band's multi-decade stronghold on the American rock scene has left many wondering: Who's the leader of the Eagles?

Some credit Don Henley and Glenn Frey as co-leaders

As with any band that's left an indelible mark on the music scene, salacious stories color in the outlines of the past. For example, per Far Out Magazine, there's a rumor that the Eagles got their band name after an alcohol-infused and peyote-punctuated trip to the Mojave Desert. Another piece of hearsay (via the Cleveland website) questions whether or not singer and drummer Don Henley knows the difference between wine and spirits, due to the famous "Hotel California" lyric, "So I called up the captain and said, 'Please bring me my wine.' He said, 'We haven't had that spirit here since 1969.'" Needless to say, the rambunctious band behind breakout albums like "Desperado" had a larger-than-life reputation hanging over their heads like an anvil — ready to spread destruction at a moment's notice.

The mere fact that the Eagles have a history of breaking up, switching out members, and getting back together adds another layer of complexity when it comes to understanding the inner dynamics of the group. However, in the nearly 50 years that the band's music has been around, plenty of profiles, biographies, and documentaries have painted a clearer picture of what went on behind closed doors and who the real leader was. While some biographies credit Don Henley and Glenn Frey as co-leaders of the Eagles (per AllMusic), one of these men was eventually deemed the real leader.

'He was the leader of the band'

On January 18, 2016, Glenn Frey died of pneumonia, after a long battle with rheumatoid arthritis and acute ulcerative colitis, as NBC News reported. His death not only sent shock waves through the Eagles, it made lead singer and drummer Don Henley question whether or not the Eagles would ever perform as a band again.

In a 2016 interview posted on CBS, Henley was asked whether or not he could see a world in which the Eagles would continue on without Frey, shortly after the beloved singer's death. "Not at this point in time. "No, no, it doesn't seem feasible to me," Henley replied. "Glenn was such a pivotal part, I mean he was the leader of the band. And it would be pretty strange going forward without him." 

Henley's appointment of Glenn Frey as the real leader might've been based on the truth, a kind gesture from a grieving man, or a combination of both. Either way, it doesn't matter. Frey was a quintessential piece of the Eagles' foundation. Regardless of what Frey's official position within the band was, his legacy and impact was undeniable. Luckily for fans of the Eagles, the band managed to continue playing after Frey's death, thanks to the recruitment of Glenn Frey's son, Deacon Frey, a talented musician in his own right, brought on to fill his father's very big shoes. The band now continues to play with, as Henley has put it, "family blood" coursing through its musical veins.