Rock and roll music would sound very different without the songwriting of Don Henley. Widely known as the drummer and one of the lead singers of the Eagles, Henley is a founding member of the band that helped shape rock and roll history. Part of what makes Henley’s career so remarkable is his songwriting abilities. Henley made a habit out of keeping the songs he’d written for himself or the bands he was a part of, with many of the songs he’s penned now deemed classics. Check some of them out below.
1. “Desperado” by The Eagles
Written by Don Henley and Glenn Frey
It’s hard to imagine the Eagles’ catalog without the presence of “Desperado.” The song resonated so much with listeners that despite not being a single, it soon became a fan favorite after its April 1973 release. The slow-burner ballad plays an important role in Eagles’ history, as it marks the beginning of Don Henley and Glenn Frey’s songwriting partnership which led to some of the greatest rock songs of all time. “Desperado” is an undeniable rock classic.
2. “Hotel California” by The Eagles
Written by Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Don Felder
Like “Desperado,” “Hotel California” is a mainstay in the Eagles’ catalog. In addition to writing, Henley also sings lead vocals on this bonafide classic. Since it was released in 1977, the song’s meaning has evolved with the times. The lyrics have been used in various ways from political statements to popular shows like The Sopranos and American Horror Story. “Hotel California” is in the Top 3 most-performed Eagles songs, further solidifying it as a classic.
3. “Heartache Tonight” by The Eagles
Written by Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Bob Seger and J.D. Southe
Heartache Tonight” is a quintessential Eagles song. As if bandmates Henley and Frey didn’t deliver enough rock and roll power, adding fellow rock icon Bob Seger into the mix of songwriters only elevates the song’s impact. Artists across genres have covered the song, ranging from Conway Twitty to Michael Buble, further demonstrating its timelessness. “Heartache Tonight” also marked the end of an era, as it served as the Eagles’ last song to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
4. “Witchy Woman” by The Eagles
Written by Don Henley and Bernie Leadon
“Witchy Woman” is an undeniable classic in the Eagles’ repertoire. For one, it served as the start of Henley’s songwriting career for the Eagles and made for his first hit when it reached the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. The hard rock edge helped establish the Eagles’ sound, one that would blaze a trail for future generations of rock stars.
5. “The Boys of Summer” by Don Henley
Written by Don Henley and Mike Campbell
Two forces in rock and roll came together on this famous single by Henley, who co-wrote it with Mike Campbell, guitarist for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Henley had already had success as a solo artist with predecessor “Dirty Laundry,” with “The Boys of Summer” following suit. “Summer” is not only one of Henley’s classic songs but a classic song from ’80s rock.
6. “Dirty Laundry” by Don Henley
Don Henley proved he had stamina outside of the Eagles with “Dirty Laundry,” his first chart-topping single as a solo artist. The song that targets media sensationalism is as relevant now as it was when it was released in 1982. It topped the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart and set the tone for Henley’s successful solo career.
7. “Life in the Fast Lane” by The Eagles
Written by Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Joe Walsh
With the power-packed trio of Eagles bandmates Henley, Frey and Joe Walsh behind “Life in the Fast Lane,” it was destined to become a hit. The song is classic Eagles, from Walsh’s signature guitar riff to the lyrics that tell the story of an unruly couple, “Life in the Fast Lane” makes its case as one of the band’s best numbers.
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