The Eagles have some of the highest songwriting standards of any mainstream musical group of the popular era, and they have collaborated with a slate of the top songwriters in the world. Their co-writers include Bob Seger, Jackson Browne, J.D. Souther, Jack Tempchin … and, somewhat incredibly, Patti Davis, Ronald and Nancy Reagan’s daughter.
Davis was romantically involved with Eagles guitarist Bernie Leadon from 1974 until 1975, according to Eagles Online Central. The couple were living together, and Leadon heard Davis tinkering with the song one day, He helped her finish it, and he was excited about including it on the Eagles’ One of These Nights album, which they were working on at the time.
Glenn Frey and particularly Don Henley were opposed to including the song on the album, partly due to a dislike of the song, and partly because they were deeply liberal and Davis’ father was the Republican Governor of California at the time, five years before he would be elected president. Leadon, however, was quite insistent, as he recalled in an interview with Rock History Music in 2019.
“I basically let it be known that if they didn’t record that song, that I was gonna break his arm, or something like that,” he recounted with a laugh. “It’s absurd, right? The song is ‘I Wish You Peace,’ but I’m gonna break your f–king arm if you don’t record it.”
Leadon sang the song, surrounded by gentle keyboards and syrupy strings that Henley would later dismiss as “smarmy cocktail music” that was “certainly not something the Eagles are proud of.”
“Nobody else wanted [the song],” Henley recalled. “We didn’t feel it was up to the band’s standards, but we put it on anyway as a gesture to keep the band together.”
One of These Nights ended up being an enormous commercial breakthrough for the Eagles, becoming their first No. 1 album on the Billboard album chart after its release in July of 1975. The album scored hits with the title song, “Lyin’ Eyes” and “Take It to the Limit,” but the cracks that had formed between the band members worsened, and Leadon would depart the Eagles by the end of 1975, reportedly pouring a beer over Frey’s head to announce his decision.
Joe Walsh replaced Leadon in the Eagles, ushering in a more rock-oriented sound for their next release, 1976’s Hotel California. In retrospect, “I Wish You Peace” now stands as a novelty piece that’s a testament to a strange, tense time in the history of the Eagles. Rolling Stone singled the song out in its review of One of These Nights, writing that it “comes as a trite after-thought, poorly sung.”
“Like anything, some people like it, some people don’t,” Leadon reflects. “Some people loved it and used it in their weddings. You just never know, man.”
See Inside Glenn Frey’s Sprawling California Mansion: