Remember When Vince Gill Stunned Fans by Joining the Eagles?
Fans assumed the Eagles were finished when Glenn Frey died in 2016, but absolutely nobody could have predicted the next chapter that still lay ahead for the legendary group. On July 15, 2017, the Eagles made their first-ever concert appearance without Glenn Frey, in a new lineup that included his son, Deacon Frey, and country icon Vince Gill.
Gill and Deacon Frey took the stage at Classic West at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles alongside classic-era band members Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit and Joe Walsh to perform a set in tribute to Frey's legacy, treating the audience to a string of hits that included "Take It Easy," “Witchy Woman," “Desperado," "Hotel California," "New Kid in Town," "Lyin' Eyes," "Take It to the Limit," "Heartache Tonight" and more.
Frey died on Jan. 18, 2016, at the age of 67 from complications of rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia, and given the extent of his contributions to the Eagles, Henley initially expressed doubt that the group would continue. He changed his mind once Deacon Frey became involved, and invited Gill to become part of the lineup after Gill helped tribute the Eagles at the 2016 Kennedy Center Honors alongside Ringo Starr, Bob Seger, Steve Vai and Kings of Leon, with a performance of "Life in the Fast Lane."
Though Gill's decision to join the group was surprising to many of his country fans, it wasn't as far-fetched as it might appear. He scored his first hit with "Let Me Love You Tonight" in 1980 as the lead singer in Pure Prairie League, a group that was in the same vein as the Eagles. He also covered “I Can’t Tell You Why” for Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles in 1993, and appeared on a track on Don Henley‘s 2015 country album, Cass County.
“In my mind, I always thought I’d have made a good Eagle,” Gill revealed. “But in a million years, I never would have seen this coming. It’s pretty surreal. I turned 60 recently, and to get to be a part of this amazing legacy of songs, that’s the greatest part of all this for me.”
Gill's participation in the Eagles turned out not to be a one-off, as he and Deacon Frey have toured with the group off and on ever since. While he still professes to be happy as a member of the iconic country-rock band, in an interview with Taste of Country in 2017, he confessed that his participation is bittersweet.
"Just gratitude that I was the guy they decided would work," Gill replied when asked what he would take away from the experience. "Just that. Because Glenn was a great friend, and in my heart of hearts I wish I wasn’t doing it. That would mean Glenn would still be around, but life is what it is and you just go do what you can do because of what happens. Those songs deserve to live on as long as they can."
The Eagles announced their final tour, The Long Goodbye, in July of 2023. Gill and Deacon Frey will take part in those final shows, which may last into 2025.