Rare book dealers charged after Pilfered Eagles lyrics leak


Rare book dealers charged after Pilfered Eagles lyrics leak

In the late 1970s, as the Southern California Eagles were rising to rock superstardom, one of the band’s key songwriters was penning vast amounts of handwritten lyrics and notes—including the words to FM radio classics like “Hotel California.”

And then the papers disappeared.

Nearly five decades later, Glenn Horowitz, a New York curio dealer, and two other men were charged Tuesday in the state Supreme Court in Manhattan with conspiring to sell about 100 pages of songwriter Don Henley’s stolen notes under lies to law enforcement and inventing stories about the origins of the papers, which are valued at around $1 million.

“This action exposes the truth about the sale of music memorabilia from highly personal stolen items hidden behind a facade of legitimacy,” said Irving Azoff, Mr Henley’s manager. “Nobody has the right to sell illegally acquired property or profit from the outright theft of irreplaceable pieces of music history.”

Defendants include Mr. Horowitz, 66, who helped create a seething market in writers’ archives by assembling filing cabinets full of manuscripts, drafts, letters and ephemera into a coherent and salable whole. He placed the estates of Norman Mailer, Gabriel García Márquez, Tom Wolfe, Alice Walker and others in leading university libraries and brokered significant deals with musicians: in 2016 he sold Bob Dylan’s vast archive to two Oklahoma institutions for an estimated sum of up to $20 million be.

Attorneys for Mr Horowitz and the other defendants, Craig Inciardi, 58, and Edward Kosinski, 59, dismissed the charges.

“The prosecutor’s office alleges crime where none exists and unfairly tarnishes the reputations of respected professionals,” the attorneys said in a statement. “These men are innocent.”

A lawyer for Mr Inciardi added the men turned themselves in and were released on their own.

The indictment is a startling turn of events for Mr. Horowitz, a mainstay of New York’s rare book and manuscript market known for combining a keen business acumen with deep literary knowledge and a showman’s flair.

A visit to his Midtown Manhattan office, with its terrace overlooking the Museum of Modern Art’s sculpture garden, might grant a glimpse of a select historical letter or stunning literary artifact—accompanied by a comment that the viewing is confidential.

“As Glenn himself says, he’s a great combination of scholar and crook,” Rick Gekoski, a London bookseller who regularly did business with Horowitz, told the New York Times in 2007.

The notes at the heart of the case announced Tuesday are the lyrical backbone of what would become one of the most iconic and ubiquitous albums of the 1970s. The Eagles made music that leaned toward blues and country rock but imbued with the particular malaise of Southern California in its post-hippy, pre-punk era.

Half a century since its release in 1976, the album Hotel California and Mr. Henley’s gnomish musings – “You can always check out but never leave” – ​​have fueled endless speculation among fans as to the meaning of the lyrics. The band’s continuous world tour, playing the album front to back with a full orchestra, has been filling arenas for more than two years.

According to a press release from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Mr. Horowitz received the notes from Mr. Henley in 2005. The manuscripts were originally stolen from the songwriter in the late 1970s by an author working on a book about the band, it said in the publication. The notes include handwritten lyrics to “Hotel California,” the album’s title track.

Mr. Henley became aware of the notes’ reappearance when Mr. Horowitz sold them to Mr. Inciardi and Mr. Kosinski, fellow collectors, who attempted to further market them. According to the district attorney’s office, Mr Henley lodged a complaint with the police and informed the collectors that the notes had been stolen.

“Rather than making any effort to ensure that they did indeed have rightful ownership, the defendants responded with a year-long campaign to prevent Henley from recovering the manuscripts,” the district attorney’s release said.

The men attempted to launder the notes through Sotheby’s auction houses and struggled for five years to hide where the documents came from, prosecutors said. Mr. Horowitz later attempted to use the 2016 death of Glenn Frey, the Eagles’ other frontman, as a possible cover, suggesting that Mr. Frey was the original source for the papers, according to the press release.

Mr. Frey “is sadly dead, and identifying him as a source would put that away once and for all,” Mr. Horowitz said in a forged statement of origin after the notes were confiscated by investigators from a Sotheby’s warehouse in the district, he said the prosecutor’s office.

Mr. Horowitz was charged with conspiracy, attempted criminal possession of stolen property and obstruction of law enforcement. Mr. Inciardi and Mr. Kosinski were charged with possession of stolen property and conspiracy.

Alex Trot and Jennifer Schuessler contributed reporting.

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