Opinion

The Eagles are one of the coolest bands ever

Dad rock or not, there's no denying this band's musical genius

If you're under the age of 40 and have a college degree, you probably hate the Eagles.

It's basically an article of faith among educated white people who are serious about music that dad rock — Bob Seger, Tom Petty, bands named after places in America, like Kansas — is godawful. A lot of it is: I would rather be the next White House press secretary at a salary of $1 a year than hear "Don't Stop Believing" on a jukebox ever again. But let's not throw out the babies with the bathwater. Most dad rock isn't bad; it's just misunderstood.

For one thing, nine times out of 10, the term "dad rock" is, as labels go, somewhat imprecise. The genre is more accurately designated as "uncle rock" because it's the music your dad's sister's husband who didn't cut his hair until the early '90s likes. (Meanwhile your actual dad drifted into hair metal and then Hootie and the Blowfish; you feel bad for him.) And the band Uncle Don likes most, even if he concedes that the Beatles and the Stones are better, is the Eagles.

You probably remember those summer family get-togethers on Memorial Day weekend or Labor Day or the Fourth where he'd show up three sheets to the wind carrying a case of Miller in one hand and his beat-up acoustic guitar in the other and plop down in a lawn chair. Then he'd light a cigarette and start strumming "Take it Easy." Even though he's never been farther south than Ohio a day in his life, he'd start singing with a southern twang: "I was runnin' down the road / Tryin' to loosen my load," and 14-year-old you would want to die inside.

Guess what? Fourteen-year-old you was wrong. Wrong when Uncle Don asked you if you needed a copy of One of These Nights on vinyl and you said that you were "More into, like, Sufjan." Wrong when you mentally vowed to burn him a copy of the first Gram Parsons solo LP so that he could know what "real" country sounded like. The only thing you were right about — legally — is when you said no to his offer of a cold one.

The truth is that if people actually listened to music instead of trying to game the coolness economy by claiming affection for things based on Pitchfork and AllMusicGuide and some lame collection of Greil Marcus essays, they would realize that the Eagles fulfilled the promise of country-rock heralded in the '60s by the Sweetheart of the Rodeo-era Byrds. "Lyin' Eyes," "Peaceful Easy Feeling," and "Train Leaves Here This Morning" are unimpeachably perfect songs. And let's be honest, you have known the lyrics to "Hotel California" since you were five.

Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975) is, with some 32 million units shipped, the sixth best-selling album of all time. And for good reason: Every track on it is a classic. Once you account for families not needing more than two copies max and the ones that get passed from owner to owner at Goodwill, it's pretty clear that everyone in the industrialized world has owned this record at some point.

I guess it's understandable that a band with so many huge hits isn't known for its deep cuts. Even a lot of the band's avowed fan base doesn't have any idea what Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and the rest of the boys were capable of. But it's important to understand just how versatile they were. "Outlaw Man" is the baddest faux-Skynard Southern rock ballad you've never heard. "Journey of the Sorcerer," a nearly seven-minute, banjo-driven, string-laden instrumental from One of These Nights, is a tiny masterpiece in its very own subgenre best described as progbilly. "Bitter Creek" from Desperado sounds like a Guided By Voices B-Side circa Bee Thousand — or at least you can tell yourself that if it makes you feel better about admitting how cool of a song it is.

If you've never really given the Eagles a chance, here's what I suggest: Wait for a weekend when you're not doing anything. Buy an outdoor chair, if you don't own one, and some portable speakers. Then crack open a can of whatever you like to drink and put on "Take it Easy." You won't be disappointed. The Eagles, so far from being lame, are way cooler than you or I or even our uncles will ever be.

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