Introducing the ‘Hotel California’ case: The legal battle concerning the handwritten lyrics of an Eagles’ classic

In the mid-1970s, the Eagles were creating a mysterious new song. Don Henley, along with input from band co-founder Glenn Frey, wrote down ideas on a yellow notepad, envisioning “a dark desert highway” and “a lovely place” with a luxurious yet foreboding atmosphere. They also mentioned something on ice, possibly caviar, Taittinger, or pink Champagne.

This song, “Hotel California,” became a timeless rock classic. Now, almost fifty years later, those original handwritten lyrics have become the focal point of a unique criminal trial set to begin Wednesday.

Rare-book dealer Glenn Horowitz, former Rock & Roll Hall of Fame curator Craig Inciardi, and memorabilia seller Edward Kosinski are accused of conspiring to own and attempt to sell manuscripts of “Hotel California” and other Eagles hits without the proper rights.

The three defendants have pleaded not guilty, and their lawyers argue that they did nothing wrong, as they acquired the papers from a writer who had collaborated with the Eagles. However, the Manhattan district attorney’s office alleges that the defendants conspired to hide the documents’ disputed ownership, despite knowing that Henley claimed the pages were stolen.

While disputes over valuable collectibles are common, criminal trials like this one are unusual. Many conflicts are resolved privately, through lawsuits, or by returning the items.

“Most people just hand over the item to avoid prosecution,” said Travis McDade, a University of Illinois law professor who specializes in rare document disputes.

The Eagles’ manuscript case stands out in several ways. The star witness for the prosecution is Don Henley, who is expected to testify during breaks from the Eagles tour. The trial could provide insight into the band’s creative process and their experiences during the peak of ’70s stardom.

The trial revolves around more than 80 pages of draft lyrics from the Eagles’ 1976 album “Hotel California,” including the chart-topping title track. Henley has described the song as portraying “the dark underbelly of the American dream.”

The documents also include lyrics from other Eagles hits like “Life in the Fast Lane” and “New Kid in Town.” These manuscripts are considered “irreplaceable pieces of musical history” by Eagles manager Irving Azoff.

While the defendants are not charged with stealing the documents, prosecutors allege they conspired to own and sell them without the proper rights, despite knowing Henley claimed the pages were stolen.

The dispute centers on the Eagles’ interactions with Ed Sanders, a writer who worked on an authorized Eagles biography. Sanders sold the pages to Glenn Horowitz, who then sold them to Craig Inciardi and Edward Kosinski.

Horowitz, Inciardi, and Kosinski have pleaded not guilty, arguing they did nothing wrong. Defense lawyers suggest that Henley voluntarily provided the lyrics to Sanders.

The trial is set to reveal more about the complex world of rare document disputes, with the prosecutors emphasizing that the defendants are the ones facing charges, not the prosecutors themselves.

Leave comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *.