Everyone loves a bit of the Eagles, right? Even if they don’t admit it. They might not be the coolest band around, but who wants cool when you can have ‘Hotel California’ instead? These stalwarts of soft rock may have sung about life on the fast lane, but they knew the value of sticking to the middle of the road. For the past 40 years, that’s exactly what they’ve been doing. But what happens when an Eagle decides to fly the nest? Quite a lot, actually. All of the Eagles have enjoyed successful solo careers over the years, with singer Don Henley being no exception. Although his releases have been somewhat sporadic, it hasn’t cost him any fans, at least if his 11 million album sales is anything to go by. But which have been his very finest moments? Find out now as we count down the 10 best Don Henley songs of all time.
10. Taking You Home
If there’s one thing that characterizes Henley’s songwriting above all else, it’s naked honesty. ‘Taking You Home’ finds him in typically confessional form. Reflective, a little bit raw, and undercut by some deeply personal lyrics, it’s a fine way to kick of our list.
9. New York Minute
Dark lyrics rub up against lush vocals on this gorgeous track from the sublime ‘The End of Innocence.’ An ode to loss and a reminder of just how quickly good times can go bad, ‘New York Minute’ packs an emotional punch that reminds you of just how good Henley can be when he wants.
8. The Last Worthless Evening
One of allmusic.com’s top Don Henley picks (and ours too) is ‘The Last Worthless Evening.’ Henley is once again exploring the territory of the lovelorn. Loneliness, bruised hearts, battered egos, desolation, bitterness… it’s all here, and it all makes for surprisingly easy listening.
7. The Heart of the Matter
As ultimateclassicrock.com notes, the opening guitar chords of ‘The Heart of the Matter’ sound like they’ve been transplanted from a Tom Petty record. Considering Petty’s guitarist, Mike Campbell, co-wrote the track, it’s not too surprising. Taken from the excellent ‘The End of Innocence,’ the mid-tempo number finds Henley indulging in a little navel-gazing after seeing an ex with a new partner. It may not be the stand-out track of the album (stay tuned for more on that) but it’s no slouch either.
6. The End of Innocence
By the close of the 1980s, Henley was battle-weary and jaded. Multiple years of battling with his bandmates and his record label had left him disillusioned, depressed, and sorely in need of a vacation. Instead of doing the sensible thing and jetting off for a week of cocktails and cabanas in Barbados, he headed for the recording studio instead. It was a good job for us he did. The resulting album ‘The End of Innocence’ is, in many people’s eyes, his finest solo album. Its titular track is a thing of beauty, brimming with poetry, craftmanship, and some very fine vocals.
5. You’re Not Drinking Enough
Liveabout.com ranks ‘You’re Not Drinking Enough’ as one of Henley’s finest creative offerings. They’re not alone in their thinking. With its slow tempo, melancholy mood, and wistful lyrics, this is a prime example of what happens when Henley leaves the pop at the door and revisits his rock roots.
4. All She Wants to Do Is Dance
‘All She Wants to Do Is Dance’ isn’t a masterpiece. It’s not even that great. But it is fun. And after the year that was 2020 and the year that continues to be 2021, a bit of simple, harmless fun might be exactly what the doctor ordered. Take away the over-dominant keyboard, the frankly inane rhymes, and the very 80s production, and what you’re left with is one of the catchiest, silliest (but in the right way) songs Henley has ever made. It’s not big, it’s not clever, but it’s still going to make you bop.
3. Not Enough Love in the World
‘Not Enough Love in the World’ is far from Henley’s biggest hit. At the time of its release, it barely made a dent in the charts. But with the benefit of hindsight, it’s clearly a cracker. Rumor has it Henley wrote it about his romance with Stevie Nicks. If he didn’t, she probably wishes he had. The lyrics see Henley at his introspective best, examining his faults as a lover while reveling in the depths of his devotion for his lady. The production might be very much a product of its time, but this is unquestionably one of Henley’s loveliest 80’s offerings.
2. Dirty Laundry
Henley’s 1982 debut album ‘I Can’t Stand Still’ wasn’t an unqualified success. It sold moderately well, but it lacked the punch of later albums like ‘End of Innocence’ and ‘Building the Perfect Beast.’ It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t have enough great songs to rank among Henley’s best. The exception is ‘Dirty Laundry.’ The biting lyrics, slinky keyboards, and lightly menacing mood combine to create a track more than worthy of a second listen.
1. The Boys of Summer
In 1982, the Eagles confirmed what we’d all been suspecting since 1980. The hiatus wasn’t just a hiatus. It was permanent. Obviously, they came back in the end, but while the daggers between them were still drawn and the wounds were still raw, they all retreated to their homes and started contemplating life post Eagles. Or most of them did. In Henley’s case, it wasn’t his home he retreated to, it was the recording studio. The result was ‘Building the Perfect Beast,’ an immensely satisfying record packed with big hits. One of the biggest was ‘Boys of Summer.’ Thanks to lines like ‘Don’t look back, you can never look back,’ everyone suspected it was about the Eagles’ breakup. Henley never confirmed either way. Regardless of the inspiration, its nostalgic lyrics and soulful vocals amount to one of the greatest coming of age songs of all time, not to mention Henley’s finest soulful achievement.