In 1975, the Eagles released "Take It to the Limit" as the third single from the rock and roll group's breakout album, One Of These Nights, produced by Bill Szymczyk. The tune was written by the band's Randy Meisner, Don Henley and Glenn Frey. Meisner started the song by himself and then turned to band members and songwriters Henley and Frey to finish. The song features Meisner on lead vocals, making it the only single to feature the bassist at the lead mic and one of three songs from the entire Eagles' discography that did not feature Henley or Frey on lead (the other two being Timothy B. Schmit's "I Can't Tell You Why" and Joe Walsh's "In The City"). It was also the last single to feature all of the band's founding members, as guitarist Bernie Leadon departed later that year.
"Take It to the Limit" is a bittersweet tune in which Meisner sings of lost love and his inability to settle down. Meisner explained the meaning of the song in the documentary History of the Eagles, saying, "The line 'take it to the limit' was to keep trying. You reach a point in your life where you feel you've done everything and seen everything - it's part of getting old. And just to take it to the limit one more time, like every day just keep punching away at it." (Quote via Taste Of Country).
The song was a hit for the band, peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In the tune, Meisner shows off his large vocal range, hitting high notes in the chorus and at the end of the song. While Meisner's performance of the song was impressive, it would soon become a point of contention for the band.
Since it was Meisner's voice on the record, the band preferred that he sing the track at their live shows, with Henley noting, "[The fans] went crazy when Randy hit those high notes." Meisner, however, was reserved and hesitant to perform the song every night. He once told Rolling Stone, "I was always kind of shy. They wanted me to stand in the middle of the stage to sing 'Take It to the Limit,' but I liked to be out of the spotlight."
That hesitancy combined with Meisner's issues with stomach ulcers and his struggles with reaching the song's high notes led to further reluctance to perform the song. However, Meisner continued on the with band as they released their next album, Hotel California, and began touring for the album. Then in 1977 at a show in Knoxville, Meisner came down with the flu and refused to sing the song during an encore.
This led to a physical fight with Frey, which effectively spelled the end of Meisner's time with the band. After the incident, Meisner says he did not feel part of the band, and he departed the group after the tour. Meisner was replaced by Schmit, after which the group also saw the departure of Don Felder.
Although "Take It to the Limit" is a song that had consequential effects on the band as a whole, it was one of the group's greatest hits, alongside other tracks such as the album's title track, "One Of These Night," "Desperado," "Lyin' Eyes," "New Kid In Town," "Hotel California," and "The Long Run," among others. The song was later covered by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson for their duets album, also titled Take It to the Limit.