Music Monday: Heaven And Hell: My Life As An Eagle (1974-2001) by Don Felder

Sometimes we think we know, from TV and movies, all there is to know about the rock & roll lifestyle: the fights, the excesses, the hangers-on, and the ups and downs. Then, when we hear a firsthand story of that kind of life, and we realize that what we’ve heard before just scratches the surface. At the suggestion of my friend, Chris Thomas, I got my hands on Heaven And Hell, a surprisingly thorough account of the history of the Eagles, on the of the greatest bands of the 1970s. In the first comprehensive account of the Eagles’ history, the group’s lead guitarist, Don Felder, tells the story of his rise from the poor areas of Gainesville, Florida to the heights of 70s rock stardom and beyond.

Felder grew up in north central Florida, where he discovered a passion for music at a young age. As a teenager, he crossed paths with future rock stars like Stephen Stills, Gregg and Duane Allman, and eventual fellow Eagle Bernie Leadon; Felder even taught guitar to a young kid named Tommy Petty. He went to Woodstock and played in a psychedelic jazz fusion band at the dawn of the Me Decade before meeting his wife  Susan and following the Leadon’s suggestion to come to California, where he joined the Eagles just before they hit the big time.

Don Felder’s account covers the expected bases: the notorious fights and personnel exits the band was famous for, the harmful substances the guys ingested, the creative struggles and power plays, the lucrative reunions. But there’s even more. Felder gives insight into the creative process behind the band’s records, including the genesis of his masterpiece song, “Hotel California” He recounts the Third Encore parties, where crew members would scour the crowd for attractive women for the band members to rendezvous with after shows. For the first time, the story of the lawsuits that stemmed from Felder’s unceremonous firing is told. He also shares the truth of how Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and manager Irving Azoff ruled the band and its affairs with iron fists.

For a truly fascinating and occasionally eye-opening account of the rock lifestyle of the 70s and its harsh after effects, you can’t go wrong with Heaven And Hell. (It’s also available for Kindle.)