Trial over handwritten Hotel California lyrics to begin in New York

Handwritten song lyrics to classics from The Eagles, pictured in May 1977, are at the centre of a criminal trial.

Handwritten song lyrics to classics from The Eagles, pictured in May 1977, are at the centre of a criminal trial. Photo: Brad Elterman/Getty

A curious criminal case involving handwritten lyrics to the classic rock megahit Hotel California and other Eagles favourites is going to trial in a New York courtroom.

The three defendants, all well established in the collectibles world, are accused of scheming to thwart Eagles co-founder Don Henley’s efforts to reclaim the allegedly ill-gotten documents.

The trial, which begins on Wednesday, concerns more than 80 pages of drafts of the words to songs from the Hotel California album, the 1976 release that stands today as the third-biggest selling disc ever in the US.

Rare-book dealer Glenn Horowitz, former Rock & Roll Hall of Fame curator Craig Inciardi and memorabilia seller Edward Kosinski have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and various other charges.

Their lawyers have said the case “alleges criminality where none exists and unfairly tarnishes the reputations of well-respected professionals”.

The documents include lyrics-in-development for Life in the Fast Lane, New Kid in Town and, of course, Hotel California, the more than six-minute-long, somewhat mysterious musical tale of the goings-on at an inviting, decadent but ultimately dark place where “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”.

The case was brought in 2022, a decade after some of the pages began popping up for auction and Henley took notice – and took umbrage.

He bought back a bit of the material for $US8500 ($13,000) but also reported the documents stolen, according to court filings.

At the time, the lyrics sheets were in the hands of Kosinski and Inciardi, who had bought them from Horowitz.

He had purchased them in 2005 from Ed Sanders, a writer and 1960s counterculture figure who worked with the Eagles on a band biography that was shelved in the early 1980s.

Horowitz, Inciardi and Kosinski allegedly started manoeuvring to disseminate a legally viable ownership history for the manuscripts, Manhattan prosecutors say.

According to the indictment, the explanations ranged from Sanders finding them abandoned in a backstage dressing room to the writer getting them from Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey, who died in 2016.

The defendants’ lawyers have said Sanders had legal possession of the documents, and so did the men who bought them from him.

Sanders isn’t charged in the case and hasn’t responded to a message seeking comment about it.


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