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Don Felder: An Eagles' Fifth Act

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While quoted to cliché, writers and critics love FitzGerald's sad and snarky quote: "There are no second acts in American lives." (Speak for yourself, Scott). We like things that explode, especially things that blow up out of sheer wrongness. But in the arts, second acts, even third acts abound.

Don Felder spent about a decade in the Eagles in the 70s and 80s, writing songs like "Hotel California," "Victim of Love," and "Those Shoes," singing, and playing the ubiquitous slide guitar that was one of the Eagles' signature sounds. When the band rebooted in the 90s, Felder survived (barely) another half dozen years as an Eagle. Between flights, he did sessions, soundtracks (Heavy Metal, a couple of Cheech and Chong movies), and songwriting.

Now into his fifth act, Felder would testify that FitzGerald was full of it. True, for close to a decade Felder turned into the lost Eagle. Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Glen Frey, and even Tim Schmit had a presence during the ougties, both individually and as a band. Most of what Felder did happened out of the public eye. He sued the aforementioned former band mates, an action that was settled out of court in 2007. Several years went into writing a tell-all book about the Eagles, promoting that book, and "flying under the radar" for a bit, he said. Rising into radar range, Felder recently released Road to Forever. This is his first album in a dozen years, his first solo album in over 30 years.

"There's a variety of songs on this record that are all areas that I really wanted to explore musically," he said, "and I was able to do so. There's a lullaby on this album, there are harder, heavy things on it, there's kind of an R&B track on it."

That lullaby speaks volumes about Felder's latest act. Around the same time he fell out with the Eagles, he and his wife split up after 27 years and ultimately divorced. As one who has also lost a job and a marriage in the course of a year, I can attest to the devastating effects this can have on one's soul and psyche. While he has four grown children, the lullaby is for his four-year-old son from his second marriage. This time he is determined to do it right.

"I missed the first seven or eight years of my older kids' lives," he said, voice tinged with regret. "This time I have the opportunity to raise a child not only to with maturity, but with the ability to select how much I want to work and how much I want to stay home and decline work. I had an offer to do a 40-date tour last year, and I said, 'There's no reason for me to do that. I don't want to go out and do that much. I want to stay home with this little boy and enjoy this and write this record be in the studio here at the house.' It's a different perspective on life. There's a song on this record called 'Life's Lullaby' that I wrote for him when his mother was pregnant. It's another great part of my life experiences. The album highlights peaks and valleys and puts them into songs."

While his book, Heaven and Hell, My Life with the Eagles details the peaks, valleys, and ultimate collapse of his professional world, The Road to Forever is more concerned with Felder's personal world. It takes us his through his divorce, ("You Don't Have Me," "Money") bachelor days (the nasty, crunchy "Girls in Black") to his new relationship ("Heal Me," the title track) and his new family (the aforementioned "Life's Lullaby"), a tour through that facet of act four.

"The song 'Give My Life To You' is about finding something in your life that you are willing to dedicate yourself to every day of your life," he said. "The song 'I Believe In You' is about someone who has gone through that, like you and me, and trying to find that place where you can let go of that, heal yourself and take that leap of faith."

Felder promises that he won't be absent for another 12 years. Of course there will be obstacles: "I have a little boy who is the delight of my life. I absolutely love the days we're together. He comes in and works with me. He likes to push the buttons in my studio when I'm recording. I call him my little button pusher."

And any parent knows how good kids can be at pushing buttons.