When the soon-to-be legendary country-rock group the Eagles was just eight days old, band member Glenn Frey came across a simple, lighthearted tune called "Peaceful Easy Feeling." The band placed the song on their debut album, Eagles, and it went on to become their third single after "Take It Easy" and "Witchy Woman." The song peaked at No. 20 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart and No. 22 on the Hot 100 and Canadian Adult Contemporary chart. That's the story of what happened after the song was released to the world, but the tune had to take its own journey to reach the Eagles.
"Peaceful Easy Feeling" was written solely by Jack Tempchin, a folk singer/songwriter who was playing the folk coffee shop scene in California in the late '60s, early '70s. The song was written organically and was inspired by real-life scenes and situations observed by Tempchin. It all started on a night when Tempchin was playing a gig at a small club in El Centro, California -- a job he secured after a friend distributed posters with fake quotes from so-called celebrities vouching for his talent.
While at the show, Tempchin had his eye set on a waitress and thought he'd be going home with her, so he told his ride to leave without him. His night didn't go according to plan, though, and he was left to sleep on the floor at the club. Tempchin could have let his disappointing night get him down, but instead, he started writing a song on the back of one of his posters about looking on the bright side.
"I had been let down," Tempchin shared with Billboard. "My friend was really into Zen and he was always talking about the magic of when you let go. A lot of times that's when you find it, because you were looking so hard you were getting in your own way. That's kind of the thought behind 'Peaceful Easy Feeling.'"
Tempchin didn't finish the song that night, but he was inspired to revisit it after arriving back home to San Diego, where he lived in a house with other musicians.
"We'd sit in front of the picture window and watch the beautiful girls on the bus stop bench and fall in love with them until their bus came," Tempchin told No Depression of his inspiration. "We talked in those days about how love never seems to show up until you stop looking for it. But, as young guys, we were unable to stop looking for love even for one day."
Tempchin received his next piece of inspiration while he was at a street fair and saw a woman with brown skin and turquoise earrings. That scene inspired the opening line, "I like the way your sparkling earrings lay against your skin so brown." He then finished the song in the parking lot of a Der Weinerschnitzel fast food restaurant in San Diego. Later, Tempchin met Jackson Browne, Glenn Frey and J.D. Souther in Los Angeles, and Frey heard Tempchin playing the song. Frey asked if his new band, the Eagles, could record it, and when Frey brought back the demo tape the next day, Tempchin said their version was "so good I couldn't believe it."
The song features Frey on lead vocals, with guitarist Bernie Leadon and bass guitarist Randy Meisner providing harmony. The track also features drums from founding member Don Henley. While the tune wasn't one of their greatest hits of all time, like Top 10 songs "One Of These Nights," "Lyin' Eyes," "Take It to the Limit," "Hotel California," and others, it was a successful song that helped put the band on the map and prefaced their upcoming Desperado album. The group released a remaster of the song in 2013, and Tempchin released his own version in August 2017.