Music

Three charged in conspiracy to sell stolen papers with Eagles lyrics

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It was the late 1970s, and the world was basking in the golden age of rock-and-roll. The Eagles were riding a wave of popularity that reached its peak with the release of “Hotel California” in December 1976.

The album cemented the Eagles’ place in the American music scene and the band’s status as rock royalty. But pages of handwritten lyrics and notes behind some of its chart-topping songs mysteriously disappeared shortly thereafter — only to resurface nearly five decades later as the frontispiece of a New York State Supreme Court indictment.

Three men were accused Tuesday of attempting to sell the cache of papers — including about 100 pages filled with the lyrics of songs like “New Kid in Town,” “Life in the Fast Lane” and the iconic “Hotel California” — despite lacking proper rights to the materials.

Rock auctioneer Edward Kosinski, rare-book dealer Glenn Horowitz and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame director of acquisitions Craig Inciardi were charged with plotting to sell the stolen pages — valued at more than $1 million — by lying to authorities, fabricating stories about where the materials came from and preventing their rightful owner, Eagles founding member Don Henley, from acquiring them.

“These defendants attempted to keep and sell these unique and valuable manuscripts, despite knowing they had no right to do so. They made up stories about the origin of the documents and their right to possess them so they could turn a profit,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg said in a news release.

Attorneys for Kosinski, Horowitz and Inciardi — who pleaded not guilty in court Tuesday — didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment from The Washington Post. However, in a joint statement, they consider the accusations as unwarranted, Law & Crime reported.

“The DA’s office alleges criminality where none exists and unfairly tarnishes the reputations of well-respected professionals,” the men’s attorneys said in a statement to the outlet. “We will fight these unjustified charges vigorously. These men are innocent.”

How the papers ended up in the hands of three collector magnates — and almost sold by auction giants Sotheby’s and Christie’s — is a story that begins when former Eagles guitarist Don Felder began writing the song “Hotel California” after he joined the group in 1974.

Now it’s the Eagles vs. Hotel California in a federal court

Felder shared a demo reminiscent of “Mexican reggae” with Henley and Glenn Frey, the Eagles’ frontman who died in 2016, and they came up with the concept and cinematic lyrics for the song, which would ultimately catapult the eponymous album to No. 1 in 1977. Since then, “Hotel California” — which draws inspiration from life in hotels and “the dark underbelly of the American Dream,” Henley told CBS News — has sparked conspiracy theories about its lyrics and praise for its haunting guitar arpeggio.

The song’s creation process was documented by Henley in pages that vanished after a writer who was working on a book about the band got ahold of them. The writer — who was not identified in the indictment — then sold the items in 2005 to Horowitz, who in turn sold them to the two other men, according to court documents.

When Henley realized that Inciardi and Kosinki were attempting to sell the long-lost manuscripts, he told them they were stolen materials, asked for them back and filed police reports. Yet, “rather than making any effort to ensure they actually had rightful ownership, the defendants responded by engaging in a years-long campaign to prevent Henley from recovering the manuscripts,” prosecutors allege.

Although prosecutors contend the unnamed writer stole the papers, in communications with the accused trio, the writer said in 2012 that he recalled “finding the material discarded in a dressing room backstage at an Eagles concert.” Later, he said he acquired them through Henley’s assistant after a stay at the musician’s Malibu home. In 2016, the writer again changed his story, saying Frey had secretly given him the papers — a convenient way, prosecutors say, to assert ownership of the materials once Frey was deceased and could no longer dispute the account.

Frey “alas, is dead and identifying him as the source would make this go away once and for all,” Horowitz allegedly wrote in an email that year, according to court documents.

Don Henley says the Eagles are done. It was always Glenn Frey’s band.

The changing narratives were part of a five-year effort to auction off the materials, the indictment alleges. While Sotheby’s and Christie’s were initially interested in selling the papers, the items never made it to auction; beginning in December 2016, authorities began executing search warrants to retrieve the materials from Sotheby’s and from Kosinski’s New Jersey home.

Now, it looks as though the 100 pages of scribbles, notes and lyrics will make their way back to Henley.

“No one has the right to sell illegally obtained property or profit from the outright theft of irreplaceable pieces of musical history,” Henley’s manager, Irving Azoff, told Billboard. “These handwritten lyrics are an integral part of the legacy Don Henley has created over the course of his 50-plus-year career. We look forward to the return of Don’s property, for him and his family to enjoy and preserve for posterity.”

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