Top Glenn Frey Solo Songs of the '80s

As one-half of the primary songwriting and leadership team in legendary classic rock band The Eagles, Glenn Frey delivered some of the most popular and beloved songs of the '70s. However, when that superstar band went on what seemed like permanent hiatus to begin the '80s, Frey hardly missed a beat in establishing himself as a top solo artist of the era. Moving squarely away from both the country-rock sound of the early Eagles as well as the tough, world-weary rock sound of the band's later years, Frey instead focused his solo talents mainly on soul-flavored pop ballads and saxophone-heavy, danceable pop/rock. Here's a look at the best songs of this portion of Glenn Frey's career, presented in chronological order.

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"I Found Somebody"

American singer-songwriter Glenn Frey performs at the Chicago BluesFest on July 4, 1985.
Paul Natkin/Getty Images

This lead-off single from 1982's No Fun Aloud barely made it into the Billboard Top 40, but it's actually one of the very best Frey solo songs ever recorded. In his '80s arrangements, Frey was clearly a huge fan of the saxophone. And even though that instrument sometimes brought out the worst in '80s pop, Frey manages to keep it at bay and not endanger the soul and passion of the song. There's an old-time pure and innocent joy that characterizes some of Frey's best-known vocal performances (such as "Heartache Tonight"), and that kind of warmth pervades all layers of this particular recording. Frey wouldn't have to wait long for serious pop success, but this track stands out as a forgotten '80s gem for the ages.

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"The One You Love"

Glenn Frey released his solo debut LP, 'No Fun Aloud,' in 1982.
Album Cover Image Courtesy of Asylum

Songwriting partner Jack Tempchin had already been a key creative partner in Frey's life as far back as the early Eagles days. Still, during his solo career the pair worked together nearly exclusively, ultimately churning out almost all of Frey's significant '80s offerings. This lovely, heartsick ballad has been a soft rock favorite of mine for more than 30 years, always impressing with its simplicity and melodic impact. Once again, saxophone plays a key role, and yet Frey's commanding, heartbreaking tenor clearly outweighs any production touches that may be credited for the song's success. The single flirted with the pop Top 10 in both the U.S. and Canada, but it should have experienced a better chart fate than just a No. 2 Billboard adult contemporary peak.

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"Sexy Girl"

Glenn Frey's second solo album, 'The Allnighter,' featured this lead-off single.
Album Cover Image Courtesy of MCA

Though a bit slight lyrically and too old-fashioned for its own good regarding male-female relations, this 1984 song from The Allnighter nevertheless stands out as one of Frey's better '80s efforts. This assessment depends heavily, however, upon the timeless, smooth introductory guitar riff, which helps to counteract the somewhat silly (and reductive) chorus. The verses fare better than the chorus in just about every way, mainly because Frey's tenor remains so compelling and everyman-specific. One consistency from the early years of Frey's solo career - and one that is quite admirable - is that Frey's early-'80s solo work departed rather significantly from his latter-day Eagles material. That freshness continues to shine through more than three decades after this ditty first appeared.

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"The Heat Is On"

"The Heat Is On" was a huge hit in 1985, appearing on the soundtrack of cinematic smash 'Beverly Hills Cop.'
Single Cover Image Courtesy of MCA

When he recorded this uptempo song (co-written by '80s film soundtrack composers Harold Faltermeyer and Keith Forsey), Frey almost instantly entered his "urban cool" phase as both musician and (eventually) TV actor. The song's association with Hollywood's 1984 megahit Beverly Hills Cop won Frey a new strain of fans and also led to ideas from producers that perhaps the singer's uniquely handsome image could find a niche in entertainment someplace other than rock and roll. While the tune lacks the top-notch songcraft of Frey's own compositions, it does capture something central about the glitzy mid '80s. It's also rather catchy, proving also that even though Frey was ostensibly serving as a singer-for-hire here, he was willing to do so with tremendous gusto. The memorable guitar solo at the song's center - played by Frey himself - also earns him a bit of a bonus.

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"Smuggler's Blues"

Glenn Frey's sophomore solo LP, 'The Allnighter,' was released on MCA Records in 1984.
Album Cover Image Courtesy of MCA

This song, which originally appeared on The Allnighter during the summer of 1984, didn't become a hit until it attracted the attention of Miami Vice producers. Ultimately, they liked the gritty Frey/Tempchin tune so much that they not only based an episode of the TV drama on the song but also found an acting job for Frey in that same episode. Following the nearly chart-topping success of "The Heat Is On," Frey was seen more than ever wearing light-colored suits and sporting stylish stubble (a la Don Johnson). As for the track itself, Frey's vocals are in top form, and his ability to spin a narrative about compromised people in compromising situations remains as strong as ever. 

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"You Belong to the City"

Glenn Frey began his acting career on 'Miami Vice,' the '80s TV show to which he contributed multiple songs.
Single Cover Image Courtesy of MCA

That Miami Vice connection held fast for this saxophone and synthesizer tour de force, a mid-tempo rock song that also fit into that show's general underworld decadence vibe. Frey and Tempchin again find a way to transcend dated '80s production with the power and clarity of their songwriting. This single became Frey's second No. 2 pop hit of 1985, rounding out a solid year for him as a solo artist. However, the glossy nature of Frey's recent soundtrack efforts certainly pulled him further away from the rootsy Eagles sound of his past and also the soul and R&B he seemed to favor earlier in his solo career. That may not have had anything to do with the artist's upcoming hiatus, which would prevent any new recordings until 1988, but perhaps it emerged as a modest factor. Nevertheless, this is top-notch, slick pop/rock with consistent songcraft and quality.

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"Soul Searchin'"

Glenn Frey took about three years off from his solo career, returning in 1988 with 'Soul Searchin.'
Album Cover Image Courtesy of MCA

Frey returned to his always-present fascination with blue-eyed soul for this title track from 1988. Its singles predecessor, "True Love," was more successful as a chart threat, but "Soul Searchin'" contains much more genuine passion. While the rest of that album has a tendency to sound somewhat uninspired and mechanical. this tune projects the kind of vulnerability that helped define such Eagles classics as "New Kid in Town." Admittedly, the quantity and quality of Frey's solo work began to diminish at this point, but it's hard to deny that this artist remains one of the few members of a prominent band to have notable success as a solo act.