Bob Seger on Glenn Frey: 'He Had a Drive, An Imagination & A Talent That Was Just Titanic'

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Glenn Frey of the Eagles performing at the Academy of Music in New York City. 

"Make no mistake about it: He was the leader of the Eagles," Seger says about his fellow Detroiter.

Longtime friend Bob Seger pronounced himself "devastated" by the news of Glenn Frey's death on Monday (Jan. 18).

"I knew him for 50 years," an emotional Seger told Billboard. "He was a great kid. I always kind of thought of him as my baby brother, a little bit. He was f---ing brilliant. He was a joy to be around. I always looked forward to seeing him. It was always memorable. He had an amazing sense of humor and was just smart, whip-smart."

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Seger and Frey met during the mid-'60s when both were active in the music scene in their native Detroit. Seger, in fact, wrote and produced the first song Frey ever recorded: "Such a Lovely Child," for Frey's band the Mushrooms. He also had Frey sing backing vocals on his 1968 single "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man." "I just knew right away he had something special," recalled Seger, who presented Frey with a Detroit Music Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1997. "He had a drive, an imagination and a talent that was just titanic. He loved music. He loved soul music. He loved Marvin Gaye. He loved Al Green. He loved Otis Redding. I remember listening to the Jimi Hendrix Experience up in his bedroom in his mom's house, and we looked at each other and I said, 'Glenn, we're out of a job! This guy is so f---in' good!' and we laughed our asses off about it."

Seger noted that though Frey plays piano in concert, fans might not be aware that he was classically trained from a young age. "Those chords you hear on 'The Last Resort' and on 'Desperado,' that's him. He wrote those chords," Seger said. "And make no mistake about it: He was the leader of the Eagles. He was the band leader. Never doubt that for a minute, and they'll all tell you that it's true. He used to tell me that 'Every single track's gotta be good. Every single track. We don't release an album till it's good.'" Seger said Frey was also known in the band as "The Lone Arranger" -- "people would bring in a song and Glenn would arrange it."

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Seger -- who co-wrote the Eagles' 1979 hit "Heartache Tonight" -- remained close to Frey throughout the years, hanging out whenever Frey returned to Michigan. They last saw each other when the Eagles played on July 24 in Detroit, and Eagles co-founder Don Henley kept Seger appraised of Frey's health issues.

"Every time I saw him in the last 10, 11 years, he was so grateful to the fans," Seger said of Frey. "The first thing he'd say to me -- normally he'd start with a joke or something -- but then he'd say to me, 'Isn't it amazing, Bob, we're still doing this at our age? I am so grateful that these fans keep coming out.' And he meant it, every word. He was definitely sincere."