Get Off My Lawn

I can't tell if he's laughing or crying.

The Eagles and Two Sides of a Creative Coin

Over the holidays this year I watched  a documentary on The Eagles. I have a particular fondness for documentaries on musicians and professional wrestlers of the 1970’s and 1980’s. I’m fascinated by their perspective on cultural phenomena that I was witness to as a child but had little insight into.

There is something quintessentially American about The Eagles and in particular the boilerplate of Southern California creativity at that time. Don Henley and Glenn Frey were far more interesting than I thought they’d be.


Glenn Frey talked about not knowing how to write a song when they first started the band. But as luck would have it, Jackson Browne lived in the apartment just below Frey and Henley. Frey said he’d listen to Browne tinker on the piano writing a chorus and a verse. He’d play it twenty times or so, then the kettle would whistle and Browne would have some tea, then he’d go back to the piano and work on the verse or chorus twenty or so more times, until he had exactly what he wanted. Eventually a song would be born. This was an AHA! moment for Frey. He said that he was relieved to find out that there was no real secret to writing a song, just good old-fashioned elbow grease.


The other side of the creative coin was Joe Walsh. To hear him talk, he’s not nearly as articulate as Frey or Henley, and he freely admits he could never write at the level of his two bandmates. But when Walsh plays that guitar, he is cloaked in a specific kind of creative intelligence that transcends intellect. He becomes an extension of the music he is playing and it is hypnotic to watch. Even his physical appearance seems to change.


On the one hand I’m humbled by Walsh’s pure inspirational talent  and realize that I will likely never be that connected to any kind of art. On the other hand I’m heartened to learn that a significant chunk of the creative process is simply hard work. Hammering at something until you bend it to be what you want–and that’s something I can do.



Categories: Non-Fiction

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69 replies

  1. “a significant chunk of the creative process is simply hard work”—Very, very true.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, that made me so nostalgic. I want to KISS that sweet face of a young Jackson Browne! Very thought provoking and beautifully written, John.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You know they nailed it when your kids are asking you for their music so they can put it on their ipods etc. Legends.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Really? Wow. Yes, they are legends. And old school entertainers. One of the band members was booted out because he refused to play one of the hit songs. Frey said these fans wait years to hear us play these songs so we’re going to play them.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. While interesting, I feel like you promised professional wrestling and then pulled the rug out from under us. WHERE ARE THE UNITARDS!?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jackson Browne has a group of songs that are some of the best lyrics there are. Just absolutely love his songwriting.

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  6. Hi John. I was also relieved to hear about the elbow grease myself. Have you read “The Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell? I strongly recommend it. It looks at the factors which lead to serious success. One of the principles is the 10,000 hour rule. The story goes that it takes 10,000 hours to reach the top and this figure was based on a study of violinists and the distinction between a concert violinist and a high school music teacher was down to hours of practice. This is a simplistic synopsis and there’s been quite a lot of discussion about it.
    I found the 10,000 hour rule particularly helpful. My grandmother and my mother were gifted and accomplished pianists. My grandmother was Mum’s teacher and that was how my parents met. Anyway, I grew up surrounded by a lot of well-developed talent and when I couldn’t play like that thought I didn’t have “it” and ultimately gave up. However, it turns out that one of the precious “its” I didn’t have was passion. I could write underwater and would have reached my 10,000 hours years ago. I took up the violin a few years ago and found out about the 10,000 hour rule shortly after and made some good headway. Unfortunately, I became physically quite unwell and lost momentum and I am now finding that you can only have so many passions and keep them up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for stopping by and commenting and the follow. Yes I have read Outliers and really enjoyed it. I know of some examples that refute his theory but overall I do tend to agree that with any skill the more it is practiced the better you become.


  7. I have a CD of songs I’ve written. (Not published per se. Just a personal keepsake for friends and family.) There are indeed many ways to write a song, as there are to paint. And yes, the creative process is a combination of exploration, knowing, and persistence. =)

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  8. I think you still need to have that creative spark, otherwise all those hours of hard work could just go to waste. But, of course, you do need the hard work to turn that creative spark into something good.

    Liked by 1 person

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