The Meaning Behind “Peaceful Easy Feeling” by the Eagles and the Unlikely Path It Traveled to Becoming a Hit

When Glenn Frey heard Jack Tempchin play “Peaceful Easy Feeling” at a friend’s home in Los Angeles, he thought the song would work for his new band.

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Formed from Linda Ronstadt’s backing band, the Eagles would soon be in London recording their first album. Meanwhile, Tempchin was an unknown folk singer performing the rounds in Southern California coffee shops.

Here’s how a fast-food restaurant, a show poster, and Tempchin’s song became an early hit for the Eagles.

Either Way, It’s Cool

“Peaceful Easy Feeling” is a different kind of love song. The song’s narrator is attracted to a girl but feels he’ll be OK whether or not things work out between them.

I like the way your sparkling earrings lay
Against your skin, so brown
And I want to sleep with you in the desert night
With a billion stars all around

It’s the perfect kind of love song for an easy-listening California rock band. The Eagles worked with producer Glyn Johns on their first album—he’s famous for his work on albums by The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Led Zeppelin. Johns initially declined to work with the band after seeing them perform in Boulder, Colorado.

Johns thought Glenn Frey’s rock and roll approach clashed with Bernie Leadon’s country influences. David Geffen convinced Johns to give the band another listen, and their mixture of country and rock would make the Eagles one of the best-selling bands in history.

’Cause I got a peaceful, easy feeling
And I know you won’t let me down
’Cause I’m already standing
On the ground

Meet Me at the Coffee Shop

Tempchin began writing “Peaceful Easy Feeling” on a poster a friend made to promote him. “I was playing the coffee house circuit, folk music clubs, in San Diego where I grew up. A friend made a poster with quotes about me, all lies that he made up and attributed to various famous people. The poster found its way to a coffee house in El Centro, California. I guess the owner believed it because he hired me,” he said.

The folk singer booked a show at the small desert club. He spotted a waitress at the venue he liked, but she wasn’t interested. Still, she inspired Tempchin to write the song, and though he only wrote part of it that night, the title stuck. Then, he slept alone on the floor of the club.

When he returned to San Diego to a house he shared with “music hippies” like himself, he’d kill time by staring out the window, looking at girls waiting for the bus. There again, he was smitten, and each new girl he was attracted to materialized in “Peaceful Easy Feeling.”

Finally, at a street fair in Old Town San Diego, Tempchin saw a girl wearing turquoise earrings, which inspired the song’s opening line.

He finished the song on a $13 Stella guitar acquired from a pawn shop and completed the final verse in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant called Der Weinerschnitzel.

Glenn Frey’s New Band

While staying at Jackson Browne’s house in Los Angeles, Tempchin played his new song on Browne’s piano. Glenn Frey was there and mentioned his new band, the Eagles, and thought it might work for them.

Frey returned the following day with a demo of “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” Within a few months, the Eagles recorded their debut album at Olympic Studios in London, and Tempchin’s song made the cut.

“Peaceful Easy Feeling” reached No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and the Eagles’ self-titled debut was certified Platinum. The group’s country soft rock soon dominated FM radio alongside Jackson Browne.

Peaceful Easy Feeling Day

In 2012, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders commemorated the 40th anniversary of “Peaceful Easy Feeling” by issuing a proclamation declaring “Peaceful Easy Feeling Day” in San Diego. The Wienerschnitzel restaurant dedicated a table to Tempchin, including a plaque about the song.

Tempchin also co-wrote (with Rob Strandlund) the Eagles hit “Already Gone” from the band’s third album On the Border (1974), and he and Frey co-wrote Frey’s solo hit “You Belong to the City.”

“Peaceful Easy Feeling” is a fitting early hit for the Eagles, who ushered in a new wave of ’70s soft rock. Though the song traveled an unlikely path to the band and eventually up the charts, Tempchin’s persistence in finishing the song and his dispassionate approach to young love created new fortunes for the then-unknown folk singer. He no longer had to sleep on the coffee shop floor.  

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Photo by Richard Creamer/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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