Take It to the Limit” is a song by the Eagles from their fourth album One of These Nights from which it was issued as the third single on November 15, 1975. It reached No. 4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and was also the Eagles’ greatest success to that point in the UK, going to No. 12 on the charts. Billboard ranked it as the No. 25 song for 1976.

The song was written by Eagles’ members Randy Meisner, Don Henley and Glenn Frey. Meisner, who sang lead on it, says the song began as his solo composition. As it remained unfinished when the time came for the One of These Nights album to be recorded, Henley and Frey assisted Meisner in completing it. Meisner’s performance of the song was popular with the audience in Eagles’ concerts, but disputes over his reluctance to perform it would also directly lead to Meisner’s departure from the band.

According to Meisner, he wrote the first few lines of the song one night while playing an acoustic guitar after returning from the Troubadour; however he was not able to finish the song by the time they were close to recording it, and Frey and Henley then helped him with the lyrics. Meisner later said of how he would usually write songs with the Eagles: “I’d get a verse or two, and I’m done, and they would help fill in the blanks”.

On the meaning of the song, Meisner said in the documentary History of the Eagles: “The line ‘take it to the limit’ was to keep trying before you reach a point in your life where you feel you’ve done everything and seen everything, sort of feeling, you know, part of getting old. And just to take it to the limit one more time, like every day just keeps, you know, punching away at it … That was the line, and from there the song took a different course.”

Meisner sings lead on “Take it to the Limit” and the song was released as the third single from the album One of These Nights. It is the first and only Eagles single where Meisner sings lead.

“Take It to the Limit” is unique in the canon of the band’s singles, being the sole A-side on which Randy Meisner sang lead, as well as the first A-side Eagles single on which neither Henley nor Frey sang lead. It was also the last Eagles single to feature founding member Bernie Leadon before he was replaced by guitarist Joe Walsh. The single version of the song is 3:48 in length, almost a minute shorter than the album version. “Take It to the Limit” is one of few Eagles’ tracks written in waltz time. (Other notable waltzes performed by the Eagles are “Hollywood Waltz”; the Meisner/Henley/Frey waltz “Saturday Night” (co-written with Leadon) from the 1973 Desperado album; Frey’s “Most of Us are Sad” from their self-titled debut album; Frey/Henley/JD Souther’s hard-rocking “Teenage Jail” from 1979’s “The Long Run” album; and Walsh’s “Pretty Maids All in a Row” on the 1976 album Hotel California.)

A live performance by Meisner from 1976, recorded at The Forum, Inglewood, California, is included in the album Eagles Live, which was released in 1980 after the band had effectively broken up.

The song was rerecorded on Meisner’s first solo album (Randy Meisner) released in 1978. The song was performed with piano and acoustic guitar accompaniment, and 1970s teen idol David Cassidy singing in the backing vocals.

According to Frey, fans of the band loved Meisner’s performance of his signature song “Take It to the Limit” at the concert. As Henley puts it: “They went crazy when Randy hit those high notes”. Meisner, however, was concerned about not being able to hit the high notes, but Frey was insistent that Meisner should perform the song in concert for the fans, and live performances of the song then became a source of great contention between Frey and Meisner, and would eventually become one reason for Meisner leaving the band.

Meisner had been struggling to hit the crucial high notes in the song during the Hotel California tour. According to Joe Walsh, Meisner could perform the song but would become nervous when told he had to sing it. By the time they had reached Knoxville, Tennessee in June 1977, the band was feeling the strain of a long tour, with Meisner unhappy and suffering from a stomach ulcer. Meisner decided not to sing the song for an encore because he had been up late and caught the flu, Frey and Meisner then became involved in an angry physical confrontation backstage over Meisner’s refusal to perform the song. After the altercation, Meisner was frozen out from the band and he decided to leave. He left the band at the end of their tour in September 1977 and was replaced by Timothy B. Schmit, coincidentally the same bassist who had replaced him in Poco.

The song was revived for the Eagles’ late 1999 shows at Los Angeles’ Staples Center and at those shows, as well as the Eagles’ Farewell 1 Tour in 2004 and 2005 and on subsequent tours, the song was sung by Frey. Originally in B major, the song was transposed down to G major to accommodate for Frey’s vocal range. For the band’s 2017 shows, lead vocals were taken by Vince Gill and were again transposed to A major.

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