“Glenn Frey and the music he created, alone and with the Eagles, have been such an inspiration to me,” said Travis Tritt in a statement following the passing of Eagles co-founder Frey Jan. 18 at age 67. “I’m a better person, better musician and better songwriter having met him.”
What some music fans may not realize is how influential Tritt was in expanding Frey’s legacy, as his modestly-charting remake of a classic helped do what was once thought impossible: reunite the Eagles.
On Jan. 29, 1994, Tritt, then 30, stepped 50-47 on Hot Country Songs with his version of the Eagles’ 1972 debut hit “Take It Easy,” penned by Frey and Jackson Browne. It would peak at No. 21. The remake was released on the tribute set Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles, which spent 13 weeks atop Top Country Albums. Featuring additional covers by the likes of Clint Black, Alan Jackson and Trisha Yearwood, the set has sold 2.8 million copies, according to Nielsen Music.
For the “Easy” video, Tritt wanted all five then-Eagles aboard: Frey, Don Henley, Don Felder, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit. Eagles manager Irving Azoff revealed in the 2013 documentary History of the Eagles that he hoped (although didn’t expect) that their involvement in the clip would help the members mend rifts that had led to the band’s 1980 unofficial break-up. (They hadn’t appeared together since then.)
Tritt’s video, to Azoff’s and countless fans’, delight, did just that. The quintet’s good vibes in filming it paved the way for the Eagles’ 1994 reunion album, the self-effacingly titled Hell Freezes Over, and subsequent two decades of touring.
As Frey said in History of reassembling for the video, “After years passed, you really sort of remember that you were friends first. I just remembered how much we genuinely had liked each other and how much fun we’d had.”
Now 52, Tritt continues to tour and release new music. 2013’s The Calm After… became his 14th LP to reach the Top Country Albums chart’s top 40.