Winslow, Arizona, was all but forgotten when a freeway displaced Route 66 and travelers began bypassing its downtown in the late 1970s.
But it still had one thing going for it: Everybody wanted to stand on a corner in the small city after hearing Glenn Frey and the Eagles make it sound so cool in “Take It Easy.”
Locals capitalized on the lyrics with an annual festival and park featuring a statue and mural commemorating the 1972 song.
Frey died Monday at 67.
Winslow residents staged a memorial service Tuesday night that featured Eagles songs and dancing in the park near the statue.
Tom McCauley, part of a foundation that organizes the annual Standin’ on the Corner Festival, said an estimated 150 to 200 people were “visiting and dancing and basking in the music” during the two-hour memorial.
“All are on the same page of being grateful for the music,” he said. “The Eagles are one of the greatest rock and roll bands, and Glenn Frey is certainly one of the most iconic performers ever.”
Fans have been leaving flowers and notes at the park to celebrate the life of Frey, who sang “Take It Easy” and co-wrote it with Jackson Browne.
The nearby bronze statue of a man with boots, jeans and a guitar has stood downtown since the late 1990s.
In front of it is a Route 66 shield painted on the road and behind him is a mural with a woman looking in his direction — a visual reference to the lines in the song: “Well, I’m standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, such a fine sight to see. It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me.”
Tyler Blom of Duluth, Minnesota, was on his way to Las Vegas with a friend when they decided to detour to Winslow to pay their respects.
“If you don’t know that song, you gotta get your pulse checked,” said Blom, 27. “If you don’t like that song, it’s an ‘I don’t know if I can be friends with you,’ kind of thing.”
The origins of the song date back to the early 1970s when Frey was living below Browne in a $60-a-month Los Angeles apartment.
Frey said in a 2003 interview with writer and filmmaker Cameron Crowe that Browne came up with the Winslow line after getting stranded there once but was stumped on how to finish the verse. Frey suggested the flatbed Ford line, and it clicked.
“Jackson was so thrilled. He said, ‘OK! We co-wrote this.’ But it’s certainly more of him,” Frey said.
Locals say the Eagles were hugely supportive of their efforts to capitalize on the lyrics.
The Old Trails Museum in Winslow has a letter from Eagles band member Don Henley that came with a $1,000 donation for Standin’ on the Corner Park, volunteer Pat Raygor said.
Shops display Eagles tour posters and sell T-shirts, magnets and mugs depicting the song and its lyrics.
“We’re so appreciative here in Winslow, not just for Glenn Frey but for the Eagles,” said Bob Hall, chief executive of the Winslow Chamber of Commerce. “Everybody knows that song, and it’s helped us get Winslow back on the map.”
McCauley said this year’s festival will be dedicated to Frey, and the foundation eventually will put up a plaque to honor him near the statue affectionately dubbed “Easy.”