Randy Meisner, a founding member, songwriter, and bassist of the Eagles, passed away on July 26, 2023, at the age of 77.
The shy, unassuming bassist helped found the Eagles along with Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and Bernie Leadon in 1971. He is best known for co-writing and singing the One of These Nights 1975 single, “Take It to the Limit.”
He left the band after they recorded Hotel California in 1976. In so doing, he bailed out of the tour to promote the record. “I could have tripled my money if I’d stayed,” he told PEOPLE in 1981. “But I was just tired of the touring. It’s a crazy life that you live at twice the normal speed. When it got to the point of sanity or money… I thought I’d rather have sanity.”
He was replaced by Timothy B. Schmit (the two had previously both been in Poco, at different times). Randy last performed with the Eagles at their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1998.
Called “the sweetest man in the music business” by former bandmate Don Felder, Randy was, sadly, plagued by afflictions (alcoholism, depression, and health issues) and bad luck throughout his life.
Beginning in the mid-1980s, and continuing off and on for decades, Lewis Peter “Buddy” Morgan stole the identities of Eagles band members in order to sample the rock star life. When he started pulling the fast one there was no Internet, no smartphones, and few ways for the average person to verify his whoppers. At first, he tried Don Henley on for size—but the singer’s successful solo career and MTV music videos made Buddy think twice. Next, he decided to become Randy Meisner, who had been keeping a low post-Eagles profile, so not many people remembered or knew what he looked like.
Throughout the years, Buddy finagled guitars to sell or pawn from luthiers and manufacturers, grifted cash from Eagles fans with a concert ticket scheme, got free dinners out of music lovers, and conned women not only out of money but their clothes as well. Buddy was caught again but after being sentenced to 16 months in California’s San Quentin State Prison in 1998, the illegal Eagle insisted that the claims against him had been “fabrications,” and that the monetary count was “inflated.” The real Randy Meisner released a statement at the time, saying, “I’m just so happy that they finally caught him. Hopefully, he’ll learn his lesson and quit.”
For being such a quiet, unassuming, and spotlight-shy member of the famously feuding and multi-million dollar earning band, Randy went through a number of truly over-the-top incidents in his life—not the least of which happened on March 6, 2016, when his wife of 20 years, Lana, was shot during an argument in the couple’s Studio City, CA., home.
Around 90 minutes before Randy called the police to report that his wife had been killed, she reportedly called 911 herself to report domestic abuse. It is unknown whether police went to the residence before the shooting, but when all was said and done, no charges were filed against Randy and Lana’s death was ruled an accident.
Just one year before, Randy was placed under court-ordered 24-hour supervision following an incident where he allegedly threatened to “gun everyone down” with an AK-47 and then kill himself. A friend of his, James Newton, filed documents necessary to attain a temporary conservatorship over the former Eagles member after the bassist was diagnosed as bipolar and suffering from “suicidal ideations.”
Lana was accused of failing to care for Randy and keeping him drunk “around the clock” because it made him easier to deal with. According to James’s lawyer, Lana had been in denial of her husband’s mental condition for the entirety of their marriage and she “stormed” out of the court after the temporary conservator was appointed and verbally “attacked” the lawyer to such a degree of vehemence that he asked for a sheriff’s escort as he left the courthouse.
On July 26, 2023, Randy Meisner died due to complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Although he went through some incredibly trying times, no one can take away his accomplishments and contributions to 1970s soft rock music.
“Randy was an integral part of the Eagles and instrumental in the early success of the band,” the group said in a brief statement. “His vocal range was astonishing, as is evident on his signature ballad, “Take It to the Limit.’”
-Staci Layne Wilson
Photo: The Eagles single for “Take It To The Limit” (fair use image) L-R: Bernie Leadon, Glen Frey, Don Henley, Randy Meisner, Don Felder