The Man Who Helped Eagles Find Their ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’
Eagles released "Peaceful Easy Feeling," the third single from their self-titled debut, on Dec. 1, 1972. The song reached No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 and eventually become one of their most successful songs.
Inspiration for it didn't come from a member of the Eagles, but rather Jack Tempchin, a local California songwriter and newfound acquaintance of Glenn Frey's.
"Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey and J.D. Souther were friends of mine already," Tempchin told Songfacts in 2015. "I was staying with Jackson, and Glenn Frey came over to Jackson's house and heard me playing this song. I put it down on a cassette for him, and he came back the next day and said, 'I've got a new band. We've been playing with Linda Ronstadt, but now we're putting together our own band. We've had it together for eight days. We worked up your song and here's how it sounds.' And that's as far as it went."
At the time, Tempchin wasn't entirely sure what Frey's plans were – only that the Eagles seemed to like what he had written. Not long afterward, the group headed to England to record their debut album, taking Tempchin's song with them.
"When they came back, Glenn Frey came down to San Diego with a two-track tape," Tempchin added. "Of all the people in San Diego, I was the only guy who had a machine that could play it. I remember meeting in this place and everybody listening to the first Eagles album on this tape. The first song was 'Take It Easy,' and I just went, 'Oh, my God. That's the best thing I ever heard.' The next song was 'Witchy Woman,' and I'm going, 'Oh, man, that is the best thing I ever heard.' And then they played 'Peaceful Easy Feeling,' and I'm going, 'Well, this is the best album that I ever heard.'"
"Peaceful Easy Feeling" actually had a history tracing back to long before the Eagles. Tempchin wrote the bones of the song after a waitress at one of his early coffeehouse gigs left him out to dry.
"I wound up sleeping on the floor in the club with my guitar instead of the girl," he wrote in No Depression in 2012. "It was then that I started writing 'Peaceful Easy Feeling' on the back of the poster my friend made [to advertise the show]. Some verses weren't good at all, but I did get the phrase 'peaceful, easy feeling.'"
Slowly but surely, the rest of the song was pieced together. "Next, I went to a street fair in Old Town San Diego and saw a girl with turquoise earrings against her dark skin," Tempchin said. "I never spoke with her, but I put her in the first line of the song. I guess I was trying to distill the beauty of every girl I saw into words on paper and then into a song."
By the time it reached the Eagles, the foundation was laid for a hit.
Listen to Eagles' 'Peaceful Easy Feeling'
“When I went back to San Diego, I was falling in love with a lot of beautiful women, and I tried to put each one of them in the song,” Tempchin told Rolling Stone in 2016. “But the rest of the story is my genius friend - Glenn Frey took the song and put just the right musical arrangement, just the right attitude. He recorded it in an amazing way, so you feel like you are out in the desert. Another reason why everybody likes the song is the amazing job he did of figuring out a perfect way to record it — and his great singing on it.”
A three-part harmony found Frey backed on vocals by guitarist Bernie Leadon and bassist Randy Meisner, giving the song its final collaborative touch. Through it all, the original message remained clear.
"Part of the idea is when you give up looking for something, a lot of times that’s when you find it. Your looking was getting in the way," Tempchin explained to CultureSonar in 2018. "In that context, the guy is saying, 'You can reject me, you can approve me. You can show up, you can not show up – but what you do is not gonna have any effect on the real me.'"
Tempchin would go on to collaborate with the Eagles on "Already Gone," then worked with Frey in later years on solo tracks like "Smuggler's Blues" and "You Belong to the City." He's also teamed up with various other artists throughout his career, including Emmylou Harris, Patty Loveless, Tanya Tucker, Olivia Newton-John and Glen Campbell.
Still, the early success on that debut Eagles album was a ride Tempchin would never forget. "The times happen, and you are just on the train," he told Rolling Stone. "Sometimes you see where it’s going, sometimes you don’t. But we knew it was great and we knew it was going somewhere.”
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