Joe Walsh, right, performs with Timothy B. Schmidt, Don Henley and Glenn Frey in Denver in August 2001. (Mark Leffingwell / staff photographer)
MR. BRADY BROKE THE STATUS quo for eighth grade English teachers everywhere by zinging chalkboard erasers at students when they ticked him off and by playing “Hotel California” as a case study along with the classics during our poetry unit.
It only helped that he wore a black leather jacket and later rode a 1974 Harley-Davidson.
For all these reasons, he caught and kept my attention during the 1979/1980 school year, even though I never before had heard the namesake title track of the 1976 album by The Eagles.
My mother, like many other local mothers during that era, tuned our kitchen radio to KIWI (pronounced “kee wee”) FM 105 — the elevator music station broadcast from Dubuque, Ia., the city across the Mississippi River from my hometown of Galena, Ill.
But once I heard The Eagles on the cassette tape Mr. Brady rewound many times as we studied the song’s imagery, I never forgot the band.
I began listening closely again to this exquisitely crafted music after the death in mid January of Glenn Frey — singer, songwriter and Eagles co-founder.
Ask my husband.
He is six years younger than me and claims that he got stuck listening to Lawrence Welk-style music on the “easy listening” Christian radio station playing in his family’s Grand Rapids, Mich., kitchen.
So, I have justified playing Eagles music pretty much nonstop in recent weeks to give him an immersion experience and to give us more cultural common ground.
Somewhere during this reverie, I wondered what happened to the surviving Eagles, particularly to my favorite Eagle — Joe Walsh, a guitarist, vocalist, and keyboardist.
His sense of humor and musical chops — his commitment to “10,000 hours” of practicing to rock star excellence — inspire me in my grunt work at a quiet keyboard.
But Walsh’s multiple Grammy Awards and platinum records sort of pale next to his successful bid in 1994 to kick decades-long vodka and cocaine addictions.
Bandmates Frey and Don Henley apparently encouraged him to get sober the year before as they moved to reunite the Eagles to tour after a 13-year hiatus.
Since then, Walsh has stayed on the wagon and used his celebrity to educate around addiction and to share how he sees it now.
“As the disease progresses … it convinces you that you can’t do anything without (alcohol or drugs), and really you give all your power away,” Walsh, 68, told The Washington Post in October before headlining a Unite to Face Addiction rally at the Washington Monument.
He has spent the last two decades rebuilding his confidence to write music, perform and be present for his family without being under the influence.
“My message is there is life after addiction, and it’s really good,” he said, alluding to his 1978 solo hit, “Life’s Been Good.”
“If I had known, I’d have stopped earlier” he continued.
Such statements emphasize why so-called bad boys — whatever their age or stage of life — need our good faith before, during and after hazy times.
I still can’t decipher much meaning from the cryptic poetry in “Hotel California.” Mr. Brady suggested three different interpretations for the last verse alone.
But the song now reminds me that, regardless of what the “night man” might say, you can checkout of strange hotels, you can leave, and you can head home.