Remembering Glenn Frey’s Contribution To Acting, Film And TV, By Steven Brittingham, Highlight Hollywood News
As the Paramount Pictures studio logo embraced the big screen with its trademark blue skies, white clouds, and those white stars all connected in unison hovering over a mountain landscape off in the distance, those chomping on buttered popcorn in the darkened movie theater were starting to get very excited. All of them were anxiously awaiting for the movie to begin. Suddenly, a rather hypnotic piece of music was now being heard floating throughout the packed theater. The fading Paramount logo was now replaced with the opening credits, along with that pulsating music which continued to expand towards a rather feverish boiling point. Louder, louder, louder. Boom! A raging saxophone exploded with sound, energetic beating drums and smooth guitar playing only added to the excitement for those popcorn eating audience members.
The only thing smoother than the guitar playing, was the pleasant sounding voice of the singer. The song continued onwards as the streets of Detroit started to come alive up on the big screen, venturing from downtown areas to those poverty stricken sections, and not to be excluded were various rundown buildings which now seemed scattered everywhere. It’s clear this movie might be in the wrong side of town, but the warm sounds of the singer’s voice eased the audience with reassurances that perhaps thrilling comedic mayhem was just around the bend. In the early days of winter in December of 1984, the weather was extra chilly outside this theater complex, but thanks to the singer’s tone, Eagles founding member Glenn Frey was making sure “The Heat Is On”. Indeed it was on, for only moments later a large tractor-trailer loaded with illegal Lucky Strike cigarettes would be smashing its way down neighborhood roads, pulverizing parked vehicles along the way. As the semi reached the busy streets on the outskirts of Detroit, a fleet of police was now seen in hot pursuit. In the back of this truck, holding on for dear life, was rising star Eddie Murphy, playing wise cracking undercover cop Axel Foley, who moments earlier attempted an undercover bust of those darn cigarette smugglers. ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ would go on to become a huge blockbuster for Paramount, taking Murphy to major stardom. The title song for the movie, ‘The Heat Is On”, would shoot up quickly on the Billboard charts. Glenn Frey’s song was so good it felt like Glenn was actually appearing in the film himself. Just a few months later, this master songwriter and one of the lead vocals for the sweet sound that is known as the Eagles, would be appearing on the small screen as a pilot on NBC’s ‘Miami Vice’.
On January 18, after a courageous battle, the music world lost Glenn Frey to rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and complications from pneumonia. His contributions to music, both as Eagle and solo artist, would not perish and now lives on thankfully for all time. The enormously talented song writer with his easygoing style and soothing voice undeniably left his mark in music history. He didn’t stop there. Glenn Frey also left his mark in Hollywood, both as an actor and musician. In front of, as well as behind the scenes. Not surprising, considering his strong presence on stage while performing a live show or the artistic flair of capturing the depths of the human heart with this songwriting. Many of his songs have been included on television shows over the years, from ‘Miami Vice’ to ‘The Simpsons’, ‘Knight Rider’ to ‘Married with Children’, his music provided enough variety for all of these shows and many more. In fact, some of these episodes were centered entirely around one of Glenn’s songs, as a major theme for the episode. These impressive accomplishments aside, he made some appearances as an actor too and brought that magnificent stage presence with him transforming it into magnificent screen presence.
Hollywood started to realize back in the ’80s that a song and movie can be a fantastic combo. Even reaching super-sized combo status, as many songs often became the symbol or heartbeat of the movie itself. These type of songs often gave singers and songwriters opportunities to bring their signature styles to a movie, or perhaps to take different approaches and explore the meanings behind the production. Hollywood starting to crank these out at a fast pace, even making films that were entirely based on a singer or an album, such as the case with the Warner Bros. film ‘Purple Rain’, which centered on the music of Prince. The majority of the music for ‘Purple Rain’ was handled by Prince himself. This was also an excellent marketing tool for the studios. What is ‘ROCKY III’ without Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” theme song? Although ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ contained an electrifying soundtrack, Frey’s title track clearly set the tone for the rest of the film.
After the release of Frey’s edgy solo piece ‘Smuggler’s Blues’, a new show over on NBC titled ‘Miami Vice’ was quickly making waves as being fashionably hip and decided to air an episode built around the song. Episode number fifteen is named after the song, also making it be an essential element to the storyline. Crockett ( Don Johnson) and Tubbs ( Philip Michael Thomas) are in need of a pilot to transport them undercover into Colombia. Enter a guitar playing pilot played by Frey and Miami’s coolest detectives are ready for take off. A few years later Frey was back on the small screen in the well received ‘Wiseguy’ series for CBS, as Bobby Travis. He appeared in over 7 episodes, and ‘Wiseguy’ showed that he could hold his own in front of the camera. CBS took notice and developed a show with Frey as the lead portraying a former chief of security for a major film studio, who has walked away to start his own private detective agency. Sounds promising, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, ‘South of Sunset’ (1993) would air only once. After the pilot aired, CBS was disappointed with the Nielsen rating results, which at the time had the lowest debut in major network television history. Despite a promising premise and even some positive feedback, the show was not given a chance to expand its audience and was quickly cancelled. There was additional episodes filmed, none hit the airwaves but they can currently be seen on YouTube. Back to the recording studio for Glenn, but not for too long.
Glenn would go on to appear in the film ‘Jerry Maguire’ (1996) along with Tom Cruise, followed by a reunion with Don Johnson on his new show for CBS titled ‘Nash Bridges’.
Chances are Glenn Frey had the full potential to do even more acting projects, but after all, his musical talents required a great deal of his time and efforts. The image of Don Henley without Glenn Frey sharing the stage seems inconceivable. Each complimented the other in so many aspects, each often sang together resulting in that phenomenal sound that is known as the Eagles. Frey also co-wrote a song specifically written with ‘Miami Vice’ in mind. The mesmerizing rhythm of ‘You Belong To The City’ captured the spirit of the ever popular ‘Miami Vice’. With its sincere lyrics and pulsating sounds, all one has to do is listen to Glenn Frey sing the song to realize you are drawn completely in, as so often the case with Frey, one believes what he is singing as truth. That is one of the highest compliments a singer can ever hope to receive. He may have belonged to the city, but thanks to an amazing career in both music and film, he now belongs to each of us.
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Written By: Steven Brittingham, Contributing Editor; Steven Brittingham is an actor, writer residing in Cincinnati, Ohio. Steven has one son Jacob. He was raised and adopted by his grandparents. He is currently writing ‘Memories Left Behind’, which is based on his own true life experiences of being adopted, life as an actor in Hollywood and the journey of saying goodbye to his grandmother during her final days.
Photographs are Courtesy: IMDB; Google+; File
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