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Classic Rock

Former Eagles bassist Randy Meisner dead at 77

Randy Meisner of the Eagles smiling

Original Eagles bassist Randy Meisner has died at the age of 77.

Meisner’s death was announced in a statement by his former band, who revealed that he passed away in Los Angeles on Wednesday July 26 due to complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

“Randy was an integral part of the Eagles and instrumental in the early success of the band. His vocal range was astonishing, as is evident on his signature ballad, ‘Take It to the Limit,’” said the band.

Meisner played on the band’s first five albums, co-writing and taking lead vocals on several songs including Most Of Us Are Sad, Certain Kind Of Fool, Midnight Flyer and the Top 5 US hit Take It To The Limit, which saw Meisner famously hitting a sustained high note.

Born in Nebraska in 1946, Meisner’s early bands included The Dynamics and The Poor, opening for Jimi Hendrix in New York with the latter. After moving to Los Angeles, he co-founded pioneering country rockers Poco, playing on their first album but quitting before it was released.

Meisner subsequently joined Rick Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band and played bass on two tracks on James Taylor’s 1969 album Sweet Baby James. In 1971, he was recruited to play in country singer Linda Ronstadt’s backing band, where he met Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Bernie Leadon. The four musicians formed the Eagles later the same year.

As well as playing bass on Eagles (1972), Desperado (1973), On The Border (1974), One Of These Nights (1975) and Hotel California (1976), Meisner’s high harmonies helped give the band its distinctive sound.

Meisner left the Eagles in 1977,due to a combination of ill health and a reluctance to be in the spotlight. "I was always kind of shy... They wanted me to stand in the middle of the stage to sing Take It To The Limit, but I liked to be out of the spotlight,” he told Rolling Stone.

Meisner released a self-titled solo album in 1978, followed by 1980’s One More Song and a second eponymous album in 1982. He returned to Poco in 1988 for the Legacy album, and reunited with the Eagles when they were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1998, though he didn’t play on the band’s 1994 comeback album Hell Freezes Over or their final studio album, Long Road Out Of Eden (2007).

Meisner’s later life was turbulent. He suffered a heart attack in 2004, which would eventually prompt him to stop performing. In 2013, he fell into a coma after almost choking on a piece of food (the Eagles paid his medical bills). He also struggled with alcohol and drug addiction, and was diagnosed as bipolar.

In March 16, his second wife, Lana Meisner, died after accidentally shooting herself when a shotgun she was carrying was struck by an object and fired. Meisner was cleared of any part in her death, with surveillance tapes showing him in a different part of the house, though he was placed in psychiatric care after her death, due to his fragile mental health.

Former Eagles guitarist Don Felder called Meisner “a wonderful Midwestern guy with a great heart and a loving soul.” Photographer Henry Diltz, who shot many of the band’s most iconic images, said of the bassist: "Randy Meisner was a very gentle soul… A quiet and friendly guy. No aggressive vibe at all. Very sweet. He was so there and open."

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