Ex-Eagle Don Felder's Solo Flight Takes a Road to Forever
For anyone making a Top 10 list of classic rock's most iconic songs, of course there has to be a slot for "Hotel California." Right up there with "Hey Jude," "Stairway to Heaven," "Layla" and "Smoke on the Water."
ABC Public Relations Don Felder with his signature twin-necked guitar.
The 1977 Eagles song -- written by band members Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and Don Felder -- has a melody as memorable as its lyrics are cryptic. And while the No 1 hit is arguably the band's most memorable track, it wasn't until fairly recently that Felder realized just how iconic it has become.
"I was playing a small gig two years ago for the United Nations in Washington, D.C. for about 500 heads of state, political personalities and dignitaries from all over the world," the affable Felder recalls today. "And probably half of them didn't speak English.
"But when I went out to play 'Hotel California,' the place just erupted," he continues. "Everybody stood up and applauded and knew that song. And to me, that meant more than standing on stage and playing it even for 100,000 people."
Felder's ousting from the Eagles' nest and subsequent lawsuits over membership and money has been well-documented. But he and his own band will be coming to the Woodlands this Sunday on a package tour with fellow classic rockers Styx and Foreigner.
The impossibly young-looking 68-year-old is also touring on the re-release of his most recent solo record, Road to Forever (INGrooves). The extended edition features four additional tracks to go with the original version's dozen.
"Some places like Amazon, iTunes, and Japanese distributors wanted exclusive songs when it came out, so that's where those come from. I'm glad to see them all living together now in the same place like they were supposed to!" Felder laughs.
With numbers running the gamut from hard rock and ballads to laid-back grooves and even a lullaby, Felder notes that it was "liberating" to do the project, especially coming on the heels of a divorce from his wife of 29 years. The subject and the surrounding feelings color a number of tunes, including "You Don't Have Me," "Heal Me," "Over You" and "Wash Away," the last co-written with longtime friend Tommy Shaw of Styx.
"If there's a human common denominator in life, it's that life batters us emotionally -- loss of loved ones and family, heartbreak from relationships," he says in explaining the song. "All these become scars on our heart, and we all wish we could go through the process to wash away all that pain and history we carry."
However, Felder also quick to point out that he and his ex-wife, who have four children together, have a "wonderful" current relationship and often spend holidays together with their new significant others.
"It was amicable," Felder offers. "We just sat down and decided to spare ourselves the agony of a long process and keep the money for our kids instead of giving it to lawyers. We still talk on the phone once every week or two, we have hundreds of friends together, compassion for each other, and we shared and appreciated the time we had together. But we're happier individually now."
Felder's divorce from the Eagles hasn't been so quite amicable (more on that in Part 2 of this interview), but he's kept other musical friendships intact and thriving, as Felder is at the axis of a sort of Florida Classic Rock Galaxy.
Duane Allman taught him some new ways to play slide guitar. He and Stephen Stills have been friends and collaborators since they were teens and Felder's mother would drive them to shows. And a young Felder once gave guitar lessons to an even younger student -- a guy named Tom Petty. He would go on to do pretty OK for himself.
"Stephen now lives about a mile down the road from me," Felder laughs. "We play golf, do charity events together, even go to each other's kids' birthday parties!"
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