The new year is barely three weeks old, and it’s already claimed the lives of too many icons to bear. First it was David Bowie, then actor Allan Rickman, then we learned Blowfly had passed away. And now Glenn Frey, who, according to an official statement, succumbed to complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis, and pneumonia.
Countless words will be spoken in the coming days about Frey’s musical contributions, particularly as a member of the Eagles, one of the most successful bands in music history and a group that helped initiate Americana even before the term was widely adapted. Their hits are part of the lexicon of popular music, and it’s all but impossible to name an Eagles song that hasn’t been an indelible part of nearly every popular radio format imaginable. However, we in Miami will always remember Frey for his contributions to a television show that helped define our city as the glamour capital of the world, where pink flamingos, smugglers, and sharply dressed detectives all competed for attention in a pastel paradise known as Miami Beach.
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While other musicians contributed to Miami Vice's hit-laden soundtracks — Phil Collins, Chaka Khan, Tina Turner, and composer Jan Hammer in particular — Frey went one step further, actually playing a recurring character named Jimmy Cole, a smuggler who was especially fond of his guitar. The episode titled “Smuggler’s Blues” not only introduced the character but the song of the same name, which Frey performed on that episode and in a subsequent episode called “A Bullet for Crocket.” His other musical contributions included "New Love" in the episode "Nobody Lives Forever" and "You Belong to the City" in the installment titled "The Prodigal Son.”
The latter track would become of Frey’s biggest hits and best-known songs as far as his Eagles contributions were concerned. Although co-written with Jack Tempchin specifically for Miami Vice, Frey performed it frequently on tour with the band, making it an essential part of his live repertoire. It not only boasts Frey’s emotive vocals but also his instrumental dexterity. Indeed, he plays everything but