Know the Song But Not the Writer: Peaceful Easy Feeling Edition

Around the early 1970s, Jack Tempchin was playing guitar and singing in coffee houses in San Diego when he got a gig in El Centro, California. It was his first time in the desert, and the sky inspired him to come up with the line “Peaceful Easy Feeling” for a song. He continued working on the song back in San Diego.

While attending a street fair, Tempchin saw a beautiful woman with tan skin and turquoise earrings. While he did not speak to her, he put her in the opening stanza of the song he was writing on his $13 Stella guitar:

I like the way your sparkling earrings lay,
Against your skin, it’s so brown.
And I wanna sleep with you in the desert tonight
With a billion stars all around.

The Eagles

After finishing the last verse at a Der Weinerschnitzel fast food restaurant in San Diego, Tempchin was hanging around with a number of up-and-coming singer-songwriters. He was staying with Jackson Browne when Glenn Frey overheard Tempchin playing the song.

Frey liked the tune and told Tempchin that he had a band called “the Eagles” that had only been together eight days. Tempchin gave Frey permission for his band to work up the song and the rest is history.

A few months later, Frey played for Tempchin the band’s version of the song with Frey singing lead vocal.  Tempchin loved it.

The tune ended up on the Eagles’ first album, Eagles (1972), and it was released as a single in December 1972.  It went to #22 on the charts. Tempchin heard his song on the radio for the first time as it played on a small transistor radio on top of a refrigerator in the house of someone he met while taking a road trip.

Anyone who was around in the 1970s can probably sing along to the song, which was everywhere on the radio. The film The Big Lebowski (1998) even played off the song’s ubiquitousness when the Dude heard the song playing in a cab and complained about the Eagles. The cab driver then threw him out of the cab.

Tempchin After “Peaceful Easy Feeling”

As for Tempchin, he continues to write and perform. He co-wrote other songs for the Eagles, including “Already Gone.” And his songs have been covered by others, including “Slow Dancin’ (Swayin’ to the Music),” a 1979 hit for Johnny Rivers.

Tempchin tells more of the interesting story behind “Peaceful Easy Feeling” in a post on No Depression and on his website.  The site also features stories from fans about what the song means to them.

You have heard the original version by the Eagles, so now give a listen to the songwriter singing his song. You may hear Tempchin sing “Peaceful Easy Feeling” from his recent CD Live At Tales from the Tavern (2012) above or watch him sing the song in the video below.

Inspirations for the Song

It is interesting to think of the woman who inspired the opening of the song, never knowing it. Like everyone else, she must have heard the song many times, never knowing that it is her in those lines.

Tempchin has explained, “I guess I was trying to distill the beauty of every girl I saw into words on paper and then into a song.” So, maybe it is appropriate that there is no one person out there claiming the song.

Real people and relationships are messy, so it is only an idealized lover that eternally can inspire lines like: “‘Cause I get a peaceful easy feeling/ And I know you won’t let me down.”

And that is the story behind the song.

What is your favorite memory of hearing “Peaceful Easy Feeling”? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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