He’s got a peaceful easy feeling
Who: Jack Tempchin and Keith Harkin
When: 7pm Tues., Nov. 6
Where: Firefly Lounge, 1015 N. State St.
Wednesday, October 31, 2018
In August, the Recording Industry Association of America announced that an Eagles album, Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975, had surpassed Michael Jackson’s Thriller as the all-time bestselling album in the United States and I was shook. Not because the Eagles record had gone platinum some 38 times over (and counting)—one of the things the band is known for, beyond the songs on Their Greatest Hits, is selling very large numbers of albums. I was more shocked because, much like Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point NBA game, Thriller’s name atop the all-time-sales list was supposed to be one of those unbreakable records.
Step aside, Billie Jean. There’s a new kid in town.
It’s highly likely that none of this was news to Jack Tempchin. He’s well aware of the appeal the songs on Their Greatest Hits still have, more than four decades after they first made their way into the world. After all, he wrote a couple of them.
Before he was the man responsible for penning a pair of the Eagles most recognizable hits, Tempchin was just another guy trying to make a go of it in music in 1970s San Diego. He wrote a song, “Tijuana,” with friend and neighbor Tom Waits. He hung out with Glenn Frey and Jackson Browne. And, as the story goes, he sketched out a song about being young and falling in love with every beautiful woman who came into view. Legend has it he finished the song in a Der Wienerschnitzel parking lot (my hand to god, I am not making this up).
I automatically love any origin story in which Der Wienerschnitzel plays a pivotal role.
Tempchin sang the completed song for Frey one night while hanging out at Browne’s house; Frey brought it to his new band, dubbed the Eagles, who liked it enough to record it for their first album. The song was “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” and it was the third and last single released off the album. Following on the heels of “Take It Easy” and “Witchy Woman,” “Peaceful Easy Feeling” heralded the Eagles as force to be reckoned with right out of the gate.
The Eagles sophomore effort was Desperado and while it yielded songs for the greatest hits canon, particularly the title track and “Tequila Sunrise,” commercially it was not as successful as their debut. They found themselves wanting to break away from the country rock genre they’d helped make popular in favor of a more straightforward rock sound. After changing studios and producers partway through the recording of their third album, they once again turned to Tempchin.
This time, what they got was “Already Gone,” which Tempchin wrote with Robb Strandlund. The song embodied the more rock ’n’ roll vibe the band was after and made good use of the vocal harmonies for which they’d become famous. In other words, “Already Gone” was both fresh and familiar, an evolution without being too much of a departure from what made them the Eagles.
Instead of being the final single released from an album, when On the Border came out in 1974, this time Tempchin’s song led the charge for the bigger, louder, bolder Eagles. And as they had to “Peaceful Easy Feelings,” fans responded in a big way to “Already Gone,” and the single spent nearly four months on the Billboard Hot 100 and, along with so many of the Eagles’ other songs, remains a radio staple even today.
But to think Tempchin’s career as a songwriter begins and ends with two songs—even if those songs are considered classics—is to vastly underestimate the prolific singer/songwriter.
After the Eagles broke up in 1980, Tempchin continued to work with Frey, and together the duo penned such radio-ready songs as “You Belong to the City,” “The One You Love,” and the song that inspired an episode of Miami Vice, “Smuggler’s Blues.”
Tempchin also wrote “Swayin’ to the Music (Slow Dancin’),” a top-10 hit for Johnny Rivers in 1977, and then again two years later on the country charts for Johnny Duncan. A song so nice they recorded it twice.
His songs have also been covered by a variety of other musical luminaries, many of them country artists. George Jones, Emmylou Harris, Tanya Tucker, Glen Campbell, and more all feature Tempchin tunes among their discographies. So do Waits, Linda Ronstadt, John Fogerty, and even My Morning Jacket. And the likes of Ringo Starr, longtime friend Browne, Dolly Parton, Chicago, Kenny Loggins—the list goes on forever—have invited him to tour with them.
Which is to say that when Tempchin plays the Firefly Lounge on Tues., Nov. 6, he’s not showing up with just anyone. Instead, he’s enlisted Celtic Thunder alum Keith Harkin to join him for the very special, limited seating concert. If you’ve always dreamed of seeing an Eagle play a show in an intimate venue, for a reasonable price, without having to leave town—well, keep dreaming. That probably isn’t going to happen. But if it’s a peaceful easy feeling you’re looking for, Tempchin will be more than happy to help you find it. See him before he’s already gone.
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