Hotel California case: Rare criminal trial over handwritten lyrics of iconic Eagles song gets under way in New York | Ents & Arts News


A criminal trial involving allegedly ill-gotten handwritten lyrics to the classic rock song Hotel California, as well as other favourites by the Eagles, has begun in New York.

The unusual case concerns about 100 pages of drafts featuring the words to songs from the Hotel California album, which was released in 1976 and is the third-biggest selling album ever in the US.

Rare books dealer Glenn Horowitz, former Rock and Roll Hall of Fame curator Craig Inciardi, and memorabilia seller Edward Kosinski are accused of scheming to thwart Eagles co-founder Don Henley’s efforts to reclaim the documents, and face charges including conspiracy to possess stolen property.

They all deny the charges and have pleaded not guilty.

Former Rock & Roll Hall of Fame curator Craig Inciardi, memorabilia seller Edward Kosinski, and rare-book dealer Glenn Horowitz are on trial in New York in a case involving handwritten lyrics to songs by the Eagles. Pic: Mary Altaffer/ AP
L-R: Former Rock & Roll Hall of Fame curator Craig Inciardi, memorabilia seller Edward Kosinski, and rare-book dealer Glenn Horowitz are on trial in New York. Pic: Mary Altaffer/AP

The trial got under way in Manhattan on Wednesday, with district attorney Nicholas Penfold telling the court in his opening statement: “The defendants were not businessmen acting in good faith, but criminal actors.”

He said they “deceived and manipulated to try to frustrate” Henley’s efforts to recover manuscripts that were rightfully his.

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

Henley is expected to testify between Eagles tour dates, with the next shows planned for Florida in March.

The documents include lyrics-in-development for songs including Life In The Fast Lane, New Kid In Town, and the Grammy-winning titular song, Hotel California – which last year racked up more than 220 million streams and 136,000 radio plays in the US alone, according to entertainment data company Luminate, almost 50 years after its release.

Eagles manager Irving Azoff has called the manuscripts “irreplaceable pieces of musical history”.

‘No theft occurred’

The case was brought in 2022, a decade after some of the pages started appearing at auction. Henley bought back some of the material for $8,500 (about £6,740), 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 biography of the band that was shelved in the early 1980s.

Sanders, who also co-founded the avant-garde rock group The Fugs, is not charged in the case.

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The three men who are facing charges are not charged with stealing the documents. Nor is anyone else – but prosecutors will still have to establish that the documents were stolen.

“The evidence will show that no theft occurred,” Horowitz’s lawyer, Jonathan Bach, said in his opening statement.

The defence lawyers have indicated they plan to question how clearly Henley remembers his involving the lyric sheets.

“His attitudes today, as a mature, successful, older businessman, regarding materials he helped compose and create nearly 50 years ago are very different from the attitudes that he held in his youth – way back when he was far more carefree,” Bach said.

The defendants decided last week to forgo a jury, so Judge Curtis Farber will decide the verdict. The trial continues.


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