April 22, 2024

Brighton Journal

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An unusual criminal case involving handwritten lyrics for “Hotel California” goes to trial in New York

An unusual criminal case involving handwritten lyrics for “Hotel California” goes to trial in New York

A bizarre criminal case involving handwritten lyrics to the classic rock hit “Hotel California” and other Eagles favorites will go to trial in a New York courtroom, with opening statements set for Wednesday.

The three defendants, all well-known in the collecting world, are accused of planning to thwart the efforts of Eagles co-founder Don Henley to recover allegedly illegally obtained documents.

The trial concerns more than 80 pages of draft lyrics from the album “Hotel California,” a 1976 release that today is the third biggest-selling disc of all time in the United States.

Rare book dealer Glenn Hurwitz, former Rock and Roll Hall of Fame trustee Craig Inciardi and memorabilia seller Edward Kosinski have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and various other charges. Their lawyers said the case “alleges a crime that does not exist, and unfairly tarnishes the reputations of respected professionals.”

The documents include lyrics in development for “Life in the Fast Lane,” “New Kid in Town” and, of course, “Hotel California,” a somewhat obscure musical tale that's just over six minutes long. In a quaint, decadent, but ultimately dark place where “you can log out anytime you want, but you can never leave.”

If some have derided it as an overexposed '70s artifact, the Grammy-winning song remains a touchstone on classic rock radio and many personal playlists. Entertainment data company Luminate counted more than 220 million streams and 136,000 radio plays for “Hotel California” in the United States last year.

It was the case Brought in 2022, a decade after some of the pages began appearing for auction, and Henley noticed — and was dismayed. He bought back part of the items for $8,500, but also reported the documents stolen, according to court filings.

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At the time, the word sheets were in the hands of Kosinski and Inciardi, who had purchased them from Horowitz. He bought it in 2005 from Ed Sanders, a writer and 1960s counterculture figure who worked with the Eagles on a biography of the band that was shelved in the early 1980s.

Sanders, who also co-founded the avant-garde rock group The Fugs, was not charged in the case and did not respond to a message seeking comment on the matter.

Sanders told Horowitz in 2005 that Henley's assistant mailed him any documents he wanted for the autobiography, even though the writer was concerned that Henley “might get upset” if they were sold, according to emails cited in the indictment.

But once Henley's lawyers began asking questions, Horowitz, Inciardi and Kosinski began maneuvering to prepare and publish a viable legal ownership history of the manuscripts, Manhattan prosecutors say.

According to the indictment, Inciardi and Horowitz offered evolving accounts of how Sanders obtained the documents. Explanations over the next five years ranged from Sanders being found abandoned in a backstage locker room to the writer obtaining it from Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey, who He died in 2016.

The emails show some input and approval from Sanders, but he also appears to have at least disputed the behind-the-scenes rescue story. In messages that did not include him, Horowitz wrote about how he couched Sanders' “explanation” in a letter and gave him “gentle treatment” and assurances “that he wouldn't go to the can,” the indictment says.

The defendants' lawyers said Sanders legally owned the documents, as did the men who bought them from him. Defense attorneys have indicated they plan to question how clearly Henley remembers his dealings with Sanders and the lyric sheets at a time when the rock star was living the fast life himself.

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The defendants decided last week to forego the jury, and then Judge Curtis Farber will decide the verdict.