Randy Meisner, a founding member of the Eagles whose broad vocal range on songs like “Take It to the Limit” helped catapult the rock band to international fame, died on Wednesday at a hospital in Los Angeles. He was 77.
The cause was complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the band said on its website Thursday in announcing his death.
“Randy was an integral part of the Eagles and instrumental in the early success of the band,” the group said.
Meisner, the band’s original bass player, helped form the Eagles in 1971 along with Glenn Frey, Don Henley and Bernie Leadon. Meisner was with the band when they recorded the albums “Eagles,” “Desperado,” “On The Border,” “One of These Nights” and “Hotel California.”
“Hotel California,” with its mysterious, allegorical lyrics, became among the band’s best-known recordings. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 1977 and won a Grammy Award for record of the year in 1978.
But Meisner was uncomfortable with fame.
“I was always kind of shy,” he said in a 2013 interview with Rolling Stone, noting that his bandmates had wanted him to stand center stage to sing “Take It to the Limit,” but that he preferred to be “out of the spotlight.” Then, one night in Knoxville, he said, he caught the flu. “We did two or three encores, and Glenn wanted another one,” Meisner said, referring to his bandmate, the singer-songwriter who died in 2016.
“I told them I couldn’t do it, and we got into a spat,” Meisner told the magazine. “That was the end.”
Meisner left the band in September 1977 but was inducted with the Eagles into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. An essay by Parke Puterbaugh, published by the Hall of Fame for the event, described the band as “wide-eyed innocents with a country-rock pedigree” who later became “purveyors of grandiose, dark-themed albums chronicling a world of excess and seduction that had begun spinning seriously out of control.”
The Eagles sold more records than any other band in the 1970s and had four consecutive No. 1 albums and five No. 1 singles, according to the Hall of Fame. Its “Greatest Hits 1971-1975” album alone sold upward of 26 million copies.
Before the Eagles, Meisner was briefly the bassist for Poco, another Los Angeles country-rock band, which formed in 1968. He left that band shortly afterward and joined Rick Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band.
A list of Meisner’s survivors was not immediately available Thursday night. His wife, Lana Meisner, was killed in an accidental shooting in 2016.
Born Randall Herman Meisner in Scottsbluff, Neb., on March 8, 1946, he started practicing music at a young age.
He got his first acoustic guitar around 12 or 13 years old and, shortly after, formed a high school band, according to a 2016 interview with Rock Cellar Magazine. “We did pretty good, but we didn’t win anything,” Meisner said.
He was still a teenager when he joined another band and moved to Los Angeles in 1964 or 1965, Meisner told the magazine.
“We couldn’t find any work because there were a million bands out here,” he said.
Years later, Meisner would find plenty of work with the Eagles.
“From day one,” he said in the interview with Rock Cellar, “I just had a feeling that the band was good and would make it.”
A full obituary will follow.