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The Eagles’ Joe Walsh talks concert for vets, music career, and 25 years of sobriety

Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh. (Joe Walsh/Wikimedia Commons)

For the second year in a row, the Eagles’ Joe Walsh is reaching out in support of the nation’s heroes by throwing the second annual VetsAid Veterans Day concert to benefit veterans’ nonprofits around the country.

VetsAid, happening this Sunday, Nov. 11 at the Tacoma Dome, features a lineup of classic rockers including not just Joe Walsh, but also fellow Eagle Don Henley, Ringo Starr, James Taylor, country singer Chris Stapleton, pop band Haim, and Drew Carey on MC duties.

This year’s concert benefits 19 veterans’ organizations that provide veterans with services such as therapy, scholarships to vets, housing, employment, and fulfilling hobbies.

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“There are a lot of smaller vets assist centers, mostly between the coasts, usually run by a vet, and they don’t have any budget … We make sure they’re able to keep going,” Walsh told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson.

There will also be a job fair for vets at Tacoma’s Goodwill Milgard Work Community Center during the day before the concert, sponsored by Boeing and Alaska Airlines.

Walsh pointed out the alarming rate of suicide among Afghan War veterans, as well as the number of vets who come home needing prosthetics.

“The sad fact is, there really is no support structure in place for the guys who are coming home from Afghanistan … The transition from Afghanistan back to civilian life is really too big a mountain for most of them to climb,” Walsh said.

In an era of political divisiveness, Walsh is happy to be able to support a cause that people on both sides of the aisle can get behind: Supporting members of the military.

“This feels good because it is non-partisan,” he said.

Talking music

Looking back to the past, Joe Walsh compared the Eagles’ songwriting process to a jigsaw puzzle — he said that everyone brought a unique piece of their individuality to the table, and together, the bandmates combined them to create a work of art.

Walsh’s first reaction upon hearing the music for then-soon-to-be hit “Hotel California” was one of awe.

“I’m not gonna swear, but there are two words — ‘holy,’ and the second word started with an ‘s’,” Walsh laughed.

The guitar lick in “Hotel California” that has become so iconic was actually a kind of ‘guitar-off’ competition between Walsh and then-bandmate Don Felder.

“We were pretty competitive … he pushed me, and I pushed back,” Walsh said. “And that was the magic of that song. Because we were going, ‘Oh yeah? Watch this.’ … Two guys going at it was really the magic of ‘Hotel California.'”

Recovering from substance addiction

As if his long music career were not enough of an achievement, Walsh has another major accomplishment: He has now been sober for 25 years, not an easy feat for a star from the era of “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll.”

“In terms of the craziness, I’ve been there and I’ve done that and I know how — believe me,” he said.

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Walsh remembers how wild the lifestyle was for his fellow rock artists in the 1970s.

“I wasn’t alone,” he said with a chuckle.

However, there was a darker side to all the partying — Walsh saw many of his rock n’ roll friends fall into ruin and even lose their lives to drug and alcohol addiction. Now, he aims to be a mentor for others struggling with addiction.

“When I was trying to figure out why I was still alive after I reconnected with God, I think the reason is to have a little shining light saying, ‘There is life after addiction — and it’s good,'” he said.

He wants to see the nation focus more on the epidemic of addiction, pointing out how prevalent it is in all societal classes and groups.

For Walsh, the proudest moments in life have not been receiving prominent musical accolades, but rather hearing from the fans whom he has inspired to get sober.

“When somebody got sober because they watched me do it, and has a life now, with kids and a family … that’s it, that’s as good as it gets,” he said. “To just make a difference in somebody else’s life is huge.”

Joe Walsh and the rest of the rockers take the Tacoma Dome stage at 6 p.m. on Sunday. For tickets to VetsAid, click here.

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