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"The End of the Innocence"
Single by Don Henley
from the album The End of the Innocence
Released 1989
Format CD
Genre Rock
Length 5:16
Label Geffen
Producer Don Henley and Bruce Hornsby
Don Henley singles chronology
"Sunset Grill"
(1985)
"The End of the Innocence"
(1989)
"I Will Not Go Quietly"
(1989)
Music sample
"The End of the Innocence"

"The End of the Innocence" is the lead single and title track from Don Henley's third solo studio album, The End of the Innocence, in 1989. The song was written by Bruce Hornsby, with lyrics added by Henley, and both perform the song live in their respective concerts. The Henley version became his fifth solo top ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100, more than any of the other Eagles members, peaking at number eight. It also became his fourth number-one single on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.

Henley's lyrics evoke a powerful sense of nostalgia for the lost innocence of childhood complemented by Bruce Hornsby's characteristic piano style. The song conjures images of a young man and young woman, perhaps childhood sweethearts who are obliged to part. The young man is perhaps enlisted in the Army and must leave now to fight in a distant conflict. The child-like innocence of their relationship is about to end through separation and trauma. Before he leaves, they share one last time together, perhaps in their special place overlooking the rolling hills of an ideal child-hood. It is a powerful and timeless theme, very movingly expressed by Henley and Hornsby.

There are two political comments in the video by Henley. At the line "they're beating plowshares into swords, for the tired old man that we elected king", it shows a series of posters of President Ronald Reagan, and at the line "armchair warriors often fail" it shows a TV set showing scenes of the congressional testimony of Oliver North.

After George H. W. Bush became president, instead of the lyric "they're beating plowshares into swords, for the tired old man that we elected king" Bruce Hornsby began singing his version with the line "for the tired old man that is no longer king" since Reagan was out of office.

The music video for the song was directed by future film director, David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club) and earned Henley an MTV Video Music Award for Best Male Video in 1990.

Chart performance

Chart (1989) Peak
position
RPM Top Singles 3
RPM Adult Contemporary 3
UK Singles Chart 48
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 8
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks 2
U.S. Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks 1
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