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‘Hotel California’ handwritten lyrics subject of criminal trial

A criminal trial has commenced, shedding light on the intricate web surrounding approximately 100 pages of hand-drafted lyrics, including those of the iconic ‘Hotel California’ by the Eagles. The trial opened on Wednesday and involves rare books dealer Glenn Horowitz, former Rock & Roll Hall of Fame curator Craig Inciardi, and memorabilia seller Edward Kosinski, who are accused of peddling these prized pages with questionable ownership history.

The plot thickens as the lyrics’ origin is traced back to a never-published biography of the Eagles, unveiled by the band’s longtime manager, Irving Azoff. Testifying on Wednesday, Azoff disclosed that the co-founders of the Eagles, Glenn Frey and Don Henley, expressed profound disappointment with the manuscript that delved into the band’s tumultuous 1980 breakup.

Despite the book’s failure to secure a publisher, its legacy intertwines with this trial, raising questions about the rights and ownership of the hand-drafted lyrics. The defendants, including renowned rare-books dealer Horowitz, obtained the documents through Ed Sanders, a noted poet and nonfiction writer, who co-founded the avant-garde rock group the Fugs.


Despite not facing charges, Sanders played a pivotal role in the trial, with one of the critical inquiries being whether he had the right to sell the lyrics pages acquired during the biography research. Prosecutors argue that Horowitz, Inciardi, and Kosinski were well aware of the shaky ownership history yet proceeded to peddle the pages. Furthermore, they allege a conspiracy to obstruct Don Henley’s attempts to reclaim what he asserts are stolen pieces of his musical legacy.

Irving Azoff, testifying during the trial, emphasized the personal and historical significance of the lyrics to Henley, describing them as an integral part of musical history. Azoff claimed that Henley had never been known to part with any of the legal pads on which he, alongside Frey, meticulously crafted some of the best-known lyrics in the rock songbook.

In contrast, the defense contends that Henley willingly relinquished the documents and is now attempting to leverage legal channels to reclaim them. Stacey Richman, Inciardi’s lawyer, asserted during opening statements that the prosecution is baselessly accusing three innocent men of a crime that never occurred.

The disputed documents include lyrics-in-development for tracks from the Eagles’ monumental 1976 album ‘Hotel California,’ the third-highest-selling album in the U.S. The lyrics were crafted in a Beverly Hills house rented for the purpose, as Azoff testified, to accommodate Henley’s meticulous writing process and Frey’s penchant for cleanliness.

As the trial unfolds, it unravels a captivating chapter in the Eagles’ history, where the boundaries between creative ownership, biography research, and the commercialization of musical artifacts are blurred. The verdict, to be decided by Judge Curtis Farber, will determine the fate of the accused and the lingering mysteries surrounding the legendary lyrics of ‘Hotel California.’


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