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Don Henley

Don Henley performing with the Eagles in 2008.
Background information
Birth name Donald Hugh Henley
Born July 22, 1947 (1947-07-22) (age 62)
Gilmer, Texas, US
Genres Rock, country, pop
Occupations Musician, songwriter, singer
Instruments Vocals, drums, guitar, keyboards
Years active 1970–present
Labels Asylum, Geffen, Warner Bros.
Associated acts Eagles, Stevie Nicks, Linda Ronstadt, Trisha Yearwood

Donald Hugh "Don" Henley (born July 22, 1947; Gilmer, Texas) is an American musician, singer, songwriter and drummer, best known as a founding member of the Eagles before launching a successful seven time Grammy Award-winning solo career. His solo hits include "The Boys of Summer", "Dirty Laundry" and "The End of the Innocence". In 2008, he was ranked the 87th greatest singer of all time by Rolling Stone magazine.

Henley has also played a founding role in several environmental and political causes, most notably the Walden Woods Project.[1] Since 1994, he has divided his musical activities between the Eagles and his solo career.


Early life

Don Henley initially attended college at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. He then attended North Texas State University (renamed in 1986) in Denton, Texas during 1968 and 1969. He left to spend time with his father, who was dying from heart and arterial disease.

In 1970, he moved to Los Angeles to record an album with his early band, Shiloh. Shiloh's album was produced by fellow Texan Kenny Rogers. Shortly thereafter, Henley met Glenn Frey through Amos Records in Los Angeles. They both became members of Linda Ronstadt's backup band—touring with her was the catalyst for forming the group in the first place. As a result, two months later they, along with Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner, became their own act, Eagles. All four of the original Eagles are featured on the 1971 album Linda Ronstadt. Later, Ronstadt also covered one of the Eagles' songs "Desperado".

Tenure with the Eagles

The Eagles were formed in September 1971,[2] and released their first album in 1972, which contained the hit song "Take It Easy." During the band's run, Henley co-wrote (usually with Frey) most of the band's best-known songs, notably "Desperado." Henley sang lead vocals on many of the band's popular songs, including "Desperado", "Witchy Woman", "Best of My Love", "One of These Nights", "Hotel California", "The Long Run", "Life in the Fast Lane" and "Wasted Time". The Eagles won numerous Grammy Awards during the 1970s and became one of the most successful rock bands of all time. Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975) is considered the best-selling album ever (in America), in any category. They are also the only band to have two best-selling albums in the top 15 American best-sellers of all time and are also amongst the top 5 overall best-selling bands of all time in America.[3]

The band broke up in 1980 following a difficult tour and increased personal tensions resulting from the recording of The Long Run. The Eagles subsequently reunited in 1994. Henley continues to tour and record with the Eagles, with their latest album, Long Road Out of Eden released in 2007.

Solo career

Following the breakup of the Eagles, Henley embarked on a productive solo career, the most commercially successful of any of the Eagles. His first solo release, 1982's I Can't Stand Still, was a moderate seller. The single "Dirty Laundry", a denunciation of tabloid media, was Henley's all-time biggest hit. It reached #3 on Billboard Hot 100 at the beginning of 1983 and earned a Gold-certified single for sales of over a million copies in the US. It was also nominated for a Grammy. Henley and his erstwhile lover, Stevie Nicks, had duetted on her Top 10 Pop and Adult Contemporary hit "Leather and Lace" a year earlier. Henley also contributed "Love Rules" to the Fast Times at Ridgemont High soundtrack.

This was followed in 1984 by Building the Perfect Beast, which featured layered synthesizers and was a marked departure from the Eagles' country-rock sound. A single release, "The Boys of Summer", reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song's haunting rhythms and lyrics of loss and aging, capped by seeing "a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac," immediately connected with a certain age group. The music video for the song was a striking, evocative, black-and-white, French New Wave-influenced montage directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino that won several MTV Video Music Awards including Best Video of the Year. Henley also won the Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for the song. Several other songs on the album, "All She Wants to Do Is Dance" (No. 9 on Hot 100), "Not Enough Love in the World" (#34) and "Sunset Grill" (#22) also received considerable airplay.

Henley's next album, 1989's The End of the Innocence, was even more successful. The song "The End of the Innocence", a collaboration with Bruce Hornsby, is a melancholy, piano-driven tale of finding bits of happiness in a corrupt world, and reached No. 8 as a single. The hit follow-up, "The Heart of the Matter", is an emotive chance remembrance of a lost love. Both songs use the effective technique of varying the words in the chorus each time it is sung, to advance the song's narrative. The album's "The Last Worthless Evening" and "New York Minute" were among other songs that gained radio airplay. Henley again won the Best Male Rock Vocal Performance Grammy in 1990 for the album. Also in 1989, Henley made a brief appearance on MTV's Unplugged series.

In live shows, Henley would play drums and sing simultaneously only on certain Eagles songs; on his solo songs he would either play electric guitar and sing or just sing. Occasionally Eagles songs would get drastic rearrangements, such as "Hotel California" with four trombones.


Don Henley spent many years in legal entanglements with his record company (Geffen Records). Following years of tension between Henley and the label, the dispute went public, and the record company filed a $30-million breach-of-contract suit in Superior Court after receiving a notice from Henley saying he was terminating his contract, even though he reportedly owed the company two more studio albums and a greatest-hits collection. Henley wanted to sign a publishing deal with EMI that would have been worth a few million dollars. Geffen stopped this from happening, which in turn upset Henley.

Geffen claimed that Henley was in breach of contract. Henley attempted to get out of his contract in 1993 based on an old statute. Under the statute—a controversial California law enacted over 50 years ago, would free actors from long-term studio deals—entertainers cannot be forced to work for any company for more than seven years. Geffen didn't want Henley signing with any other label, and the Geffen had an agreement from Sony and EMI that they wouldn't sign Henley. Henley counter sued Geffen claiming he was "blackballed" by David Geffen, who made agreements with other record labels not to sign him.

Henley eventually became an outspoken advocate for musicians' rights, complaining about greedy music labels that allegedly shortchange bands out of their royalties. Henley came to terms with Geffen when the Eagles reunion took off. Geffen eventually took a large chunk of the profit from the reunion album. Glenn Frey was also in legal entanglements with his label, MCA Records. Before the Eagles reunion tour could take off, the band had to file suit against Elektra Records, who had planned to release a new Eagles Greatest Hits album. The band won that battle.

Don Henley and Courtney Love testified at a California Senate hearing on that state's contractual laws in Sacramento on September 5, 2001. In 2002 Henley became the head of the Recording Artist's Coalition. The coalition's primary aim was to raise money to mount a legal and political battle against the major record labels. Henley says the group seeks to change the fundamental rules that govern most recording contracts, including copyright ownership, long-term control of intellectual property and unfair accounting practices. This group filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Napster case, urging US District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel not to accept the industry's broad claims of works made for hire authorship.

A long period without a new recording followed, as Henley waited out a dispute with his record company[citation needed] while also participating in a 1994 Eagles reunion tour and live album. During the hiatus, Henley recorded a cover of "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" for the film Leap of Faith, provided background vocals for country star Trisha Yearwood's hit single "Walkaway Joe", and duetted with Patty Smyth on "Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough" and Roger Waters on "Watching TV" on Waters' Amused to Death album, in 1992. Henley provided the voice of Henry Faust in Randy Newman's Faust, a 1993 musical which was released on compact disc that year.

Inside Job

In 2000, after 11 years Henley released another solo studio recording, Inside Job, containing the lead single "Taking You Home". He performed songs from the album in a VH1 Storytellers episode in 2000. In 2002 a live DVD entitled Don Henley: Live Inside Job was released. In 2005 Don opened 10 of Stevie Nicks concerts on her Two Voices Tour.

Henley's most recent recording appearances include a duet with Kenny Rogers on Rogers' 2006 release Water & Bridges titled "Calling Me" and on Reba McEntire's 2007 album, Reba: Duets, performing "Break Each Other's Hearts Again".

In a 2007 interview with CNN, while discussing the future of the Eagles, Henley indicated he still has plans for more records: "But we all have some solo plans still. I still have a contract with a major label [Warner] for a couple of solo albums."[4]

Political and other causes

In 1990, Henley founded the Walden Woods Project[5] to help protect "Walden Woods" from development. The Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods was started in 1998 to provide for research and education regarding Henry David Thoreau. In 1993, a compilation album titled Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles was released, with a portion of the royalties from the sales going to the Walden Woods Project. In 2005, he had a fundraiser concert with Elton John and others to buy Bristor's Hill, part of Walden Woods, and turn it into a hiking trail.

Henley co-founded the non-profit Caddo Lake Institute in 1993 to underwrite ecological education and research. As part of the Caddo Lake Coalition, CLI helps protect the Texas wetland where Henley spent much of his childhood.

In 2000, Henley co-founded with Sheryl Crow the Recording Artists' Coalition, a group founded to protect musicians' rights against common music industry business practices. In this role he testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary in 2001[6] and the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation in 2003.[7]

Henley is not always an idealist. In a March 2001 interview on Charlie Rose, he stated that "rock bands work best as a benevolent dictatorship," with the principal songwriters in a band (in the case of the Eagles, "me and Glenn Frey") being the ones that will likely hold the power.

He has also been a generous donor to political campaigns. Henley has always been a supporter of the Democratic Party. The Washington Post found that since 1978, Henley has donated over $680,000 to political candidates.[8]

Personal life

In the late 1970s, early 1980s, Henley dated Fleetwood Mac musician Stevie Nicks, and had a long term relationship with actress/model and Bond girl Lois Chiles [9].

In the early 1980s, Henley was engaged to Battlestar Galactica actress Maren Jensen. His first solo album (I Can't Stand Still) is dedicated to Jensen, who also sings harmony vocals on the song "Johnny Can't Read." Henley and Jensen separated in 1986.[10]

In 1995, Henley married Sharon Summerall, a former model from Texas who had lived in Paris and studied art history. Performers at the wedding included Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Billy Joel, John Fogerty, Jackson Browne, Donna Lewis, Sheryl Crow, Glenn Frey, and Tony Bennett. Henley later wrote the song "Everything Is Different Now" from the album Inside Job for Sharon. Sharon has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.[11] They have 3 children together, two girls and a boy.

Psychobilly musician Mojo Nixon wrote a song called "Don Henley Must Die." Some years later, Mojo was playing at Austin's Hole in the Wall when Don Henley, who was also scheduled to play in Austin, came in. Mojo announced he was going to play the song when Henley himself climbed up on stage and began beatboxing to the song, which left Mojo utterly speechless. The two have since become friends.[citation needed]


  • "I could stand out front and sing Eagles songs that I sing in my set, but I think people enjoy watching me sing and play the drums. It seems to fascinate people. I don't know why."
  • "I have things that I am interested in, and that's usually what comes out on the album."
  • "I would rather take a long time and make a record with eight or ten good songs on it than to rush one out with only one or two good songs on it, which is what I find to be the case most of the time."
  • "I'm always jotting things down on pieces of paper. I've got pieces of paper all over my house."
  • "I'm not scary; I'm just opinionated."


The indie band Dirty Projectors released a concept album around Don Henley in 2005 called The Getty Address which starts with Henley considering suicide but ends with mostly gibberish.



External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I've been tryin' to get down to the Heart of the Matter...

Donald Hugh Henley (born 22 July 1947 in Gilmer, Texas) is an American rock musician who is the drummer and one of the lead singers and songwriters of the band Eagles. He has since had a successful solo career and has played a founding role in several charitable causes.



The End of the Innocence (1989)

  • When happily ever after fails
    And weve been poisoned by these fairy tales
    The lawyers dwell on small details
    Since daddy had to fly
    But I know a place where we can go
    Thats still untouched by man
    Well sit and watch the clouds roll by
    And the tall grass wave in the wind.
    You can lay your head back on the ground
    And let your hair fall all around me.
    Offer up your best defense
    But this is the end
    This is the end of the innocence.
  • I see you around sometimes and my heart just melts.
    You're looking like if you had your wish, you'd be somewhere else.
    And it just breaks my heart to see you here this way.
    Someday I'll get the nerve to walk up to you and say
    This is the last worthless evening that you'll have to spend.
    Just gimme a chance to show you how to love again.
  • I've been tryin' to get down to the Heart of the Matter
    But my will gets weak
    And my thoughts seem to scatter
    But I think it's about forgiveness
    Even if, even if you don't love me anymore.
  • I've been learning to live without you now
    But I miss you sometimes
    The more I know, the less I understand
    All the things I thought I knew, I'm learning them again.
    • "The Heart of the Matter"
  • I've been tryin' to get down to the Heart of the Matter
    Because the flesh will get weak
    And the ashes will scatter
    So I'm thinkin' about forgiveness
    Even if you don't love me anymore.
    • "The Heart of the Matter"


  • People always claim that we seem to be "too perfect". That's a compliment. Perfection is by no means a flaw.
  • Someone once criticized the way in which we [The Eagles] move around the stage. We were marked as "loitering" What you have to remember is this isn't the 70's anymore, us guys are in our late 50's. You can't go prancing around the stage like a young buck, it's much more dignified to loiter.
  • Who's guitar is this? It's mine? Oh...I like my guitar.
  • When we get new leadership in our country [USA], we hope that it will be wiser.
    • Farewell I tour before playing Hole in the world.
  • Are you pukin'?
  • Why do men go to war? Because the women are watching.
    • Interview with Charlie Rose

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