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Being eagles

By Mike Ruffin As I write this, my Good Wife and I are preparing to go to Orlando, where on Saturday night we’ll see the Eagles in concert. We plan to take it easy. Or we may decide to take it to the limit – you know, one more time. If all goes according to plan, by the time you read this, we’ll have already gone and come back. We’ll just have to assume we had a good time. The Eagles formed in 1971. The four original members were Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, and Randy Meisner. That configuration made the albums Eagles (1972), which included the singles ‘Take It Easy,’ ‘Witchy Woman,’ and ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling,’ and Desperado (1973), with its singles ‘Desperado’ and ‘Tequila Sunrise.’ Guitarist Don Felder joined the band during the making of the album On the Border (1974), which included the singles ‘Best of My Love’ (the band’s first #1 record) and ‘Already Gone.’ Next came my favorite Eagles album, One of These Nights, with singles including the title track, ‘Lyin’ Eyes,’ and ‘Take It to the Limit.’ Founding member Bernie Leadon left at that point and was replaced by Joe Walsh. The new lineup made what most consider the greatest Eagles album, Hotel California (1976), which sold a bazillion copies and included the hit singles ‘Hotel California,’ ‘New Kid in Town,’ and ‘Life in the Fast Lane.’ Bassist Timothy B. Schmidt replaced Meisner when he left the band in 1977. The Long Run (1979), the Eagles’ last album for a very long time, spawned the hits ‘I Can’t Tell You Why,’ ‘Heartache Tonight,’ and ‘The Long Run.’ This was the last studio album to include Don Felder. If you’ve been keeping track, at this point the Eagles were down to two original members: Frey and Henley. Frey died in 2016, so then there was one. Now the Eagles are touring with Glenn Frey’s role being filled by his son Deacon and Vince Gill. Part of me wondered if it’s worthwhile to spend time and money to see a version of the Eagles that includes only one original band member. I decided it is because the current configuration of the band accurately and honorably reflects the Eagles tradition. The various members of the Eagles have carried, nurtured, developed, adapted, and grown the band’s musical tradition. We once heard a very good Eagles cover band, but that’s all it was, and I’m sure its members would claim no more than that. The current band members, on the other hand, are today’s legitimate bearers, guardians, and expanders of the Eagles tradition. We might think similarly about other, more significant areas of life. For example, the Founders of the United States of America are long gone. There are now some 325 million Americans. But how many of us legitimately carry on and develop the traditions and ideals of the founders? For another example, Jesus lived on the earth two millennia ago. There are now about 2.2 billion Christians in the world. But how many of us legitimately carry on and develop the traditions and ideals of our founder? When it comes to being Americans and/or Christians, it’s better to be the real deal than a cover band. It’s not easy to maintain legitimacy; it requires striking a balance between tradition and adaptation. I’m not sure we can take it seriously and ever have a peaceful easy feeling about it. Maybe when all is said and done, we’ll just have to hope they’ll know we were trying to give the best of our love. Mike Ruffin lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville. He is the Connections Curriculum Editor with Smyth & Helwys Publishing in Macon. His latest book, Fifty-Seven: A Memoir of Death and Life, is available through online booksellers.

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