** The band’s name was “Eagles” not “The Eagles” and I have endeavored to honor the original moniker.
Don Henley’s mom Hughlene bought him his first set of drums as a reward — yes, a reward — for blowing up the family’s primitive laundry tub with a cherry bomb. The prank led to the arrival of their first modern clothes-washing machine.
Don Henley anchored Eagles as the band’s drummer, frequent front man, and co-leader. He wrote and sang many of their biggest songs — “Hotel California,” “Desperado,” “The Long Run,” “Best of My Love,” “Life in the Fast Lane,” “One of These Nights” were among his signatures, classic rock staples all — but he also found considerable success on his own in the ’80s following the group’s disbandment.
Born on July 22, 1947 in Gilmer, Texas, Don Henley was raised in Linden, a small town in Cass County, Texas. His parents — his WWII veteran father ran an auto parts business, his mother taught — instilled a love of music into him at an early age but despite having some piano lessons, he didn’t take to playing music as a child. Henley instead was drawn to football and he played into high school, when he suffered an injury that led him to switch over to the marching band. There, he picked up drums and he took to it quickly, and as mentioned above, was rewarded with his first drum kit for blowing up the family laundry tub with a cherry bomb. After getting his chops together, next he played in a group called the Four Speeds. Soon, the band switched its name to Shiloh and the group was a going concern throughout high school.
Henley took a lot of stock in Ringo Starr’s “less is more” approach to drumming and he says it’s the Beatles stick man who helped him cut his “rock n’ roll teeth,” with additional influence coming from Levon Helm and Ginger Baker. Henley says that like most drummers, he picked up licks from all the drummers he ever heard.
Henley put his music career on the back burner once he attended college. He spent a year at Stephen F. Austin University before transferring to North Texas State University, where he was an English literature major. He spent three semesters at North Texas State before returning home to Linden to attend to his ailing father and, while he was there, he began playing with Shiloh again. In 1968, Kenny Rogers — who was then riding high after the Top 10 success of 1967’s “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” — caught a Shiloh show and encouraged the band to head out to Los Angeles to take a shot at the big time.
Eagles’ self-titled 1972 debut kicked off a decade of dominance for the band. This debut featured the Top 10 hit “Witchy Woman” along with the Top 40 hits “Take It Easy” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” a good start that was slowed somewhat by the underperforming Desperado; it’d later eclipse its predecessor in platinum certifications, but it went no further than 41 upon its 1973 release, and none of its singles cracked the Top 10. Things started to rebound with 1974’s On the Border, which gave the group its first number one Billboard hit with the Henley-sung ballad “Best of My Love.” One of These Nights was a major hit in 1975, reaching the top of the Billboard charts thanks to “One of These Nights,” “Lyin’ Eyes,” and “Take It to the Limit.” A. Before Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) reached such heights came Hotel California, the album that turned Eagles into superstars. Released in time for Christmas 1976, Hotel California had a pair of chart-topping singles in “New Kid in Town” and “Hotel California” (“Life in the Fast Lane” went to 11) and it not only reached number one, it kept selling for decades, eventually earning 16 platinum certifications from the RIAA.
All these early hits were gathered on 1976’s Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975), a compilation that bought the band time as they worked on their fifth album but wound up eclipsing all their other records in popularity. Not only was it the first album certified platinum by the RIAA, it would go on to sell 42 million copies worldwide, 29 million of those in the U.S., placing it in a dead-heat with Michael Jackson‘s Thriller as the biggest album of all time.
Henley was involved in a scary accident in Oct. 1980, when his pilot had to be put down in a Colorado pasture — tearing the bottom of the plane off. Henley and his girlfriend leapt from the still-moving aircraft, barely escaping injury. Incredibly, the band received a $7,000 invoice for the flight. Their manager returned it with a note saying, “We do not pay for crash landings.”
Before Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) reached such heights came Hotel California, the album that turned Eagles into superstars. Released in time for Christmas 1976, Hotel California had a pair of chart-topping singles in “New Kid in Town” and “Hotel California” (“Life in the Fast Lane” went to 11) and it not only reached number one, it kept selling for decades, eventually earning 16 platinum certifications from the RIAA.
Eagles were outraged, at first, when their label rushed out ‘Their Greatest Hits (1971-75)’ while sessions work dragged on for ‘Hotel California’ — calling the move a blatant money grab. Well, it certainly worked. The set sold a million copies in a single week, eventually becoming the RIAA-accredited best-selling album of the 20th century.
One more studio album followed: 1979’s The Long Run, another chart-topper that bore three Top 10 singles — “Heartache Tonight,” “The Long Run,” and “I Can’t Tell You Why” — before the group split.
Eagles not only spent three years but also a then-amazing $800,000 trying to complete a follow-up to ‘Hotel California,’ often finding that sessions for the album that would become ‘The Long Run’ would breakdown over a single word. By the time it was over, Eagles were headed for a long … break.
Henley launched his solo career in 1982, first appearing as Stevie Nicks’ duet partner on the Top 10 single “Leather and Lace”.
Henley and Stevie Nicks began dating in the ’70s and she got pregnant. To deal with the situation, she had an abortion during a break in touring and wrote ‘Sara’ in response to her sadness over the loss of the baby.
The album I Can’t Stand Still, which he co-produced with Greg Ladanyi and co-wrote in large part with Danny Kortchmar. Its first single, “Johnny Can’t Read,” didn’t crack the Top 40 but “Dirty Laundry” became a big hit, reaching number three on Billboard (it’d eventually earn a Gold certification, the only Henley solo single to do so). Henley’s big solo breakthrough arrived in 1984, when he released “The Boys of Summer” as the first single from Building the Perfect Beast. Accompanied by a sleek black & white video that ruled MTV (it won the MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year in 1985, becoming the second video to take that category), “The Boys of Summer” climbed to number five and set up Building the Perfect Beast as a smash. Over the next year, it racked up sales — it peaked at 13 on the Billboard 200 on its way to triple-platinum certification — and also generated three additional singles in 1985: the Top 10 “All She Wants to Do Is Dance,” “Not Enough Love in the World” (which peaked at 34), and “Sunset Grill” (which peaked at 22).
Four years after this successful run of singles, Henley returned in 1989 with The End of the Innocence, a moody, deliberative album that turned into his biggest solo success, reaching number eight on the Billboard 200. Ultimately, the album didn’t generate as many hits as its predecessor — the title track went to eight, the same position as its parent album, while “The Last Worthless Evening” topped out at 21; “I Will Not Go Quietly” and “If Dirt Were Dollars” were Top 10 hits on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock radio chart — but the overall record performed better, going platinum six times.
On the heels of this success, Henley slowly became entangled in a dispute over his record contract with Geffen Records, culminating in the label’s 1993 breach-of-contract suit against the singer. While the legal battle played out, the singer mended fences with Eagles, a development that was instrumental in the 1994 settling of the lawsuit. Geffen allowed Henley to leave the label in exchange for the rights to release Hell Freezes Over, ( a reference to the question asked as to when Eagles would get back together)a 1994 reunion album by the group featuring four new studio songs and 11 live acoustic renditions of their hits.
After Hell Freezes Over, Eagles became a going concern, encompassing regular concerts and, in 2007, a double-disc album designed in part to be the band’s last.
Henley cut back on drumming as the years passed because of the bad back that he acquired as a result of drumming and singing at the same time. It turns out, all of that stuff that your mom warned you about regarding posture – it’s true.
As Eagles rolled on, Henley continued with his solo career. He had an adult contemporary hit with “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” taken from the soundtrack to the 1993 film Leap of Faith, and he released Actual Miles: Henley’s Greatest Hits in 1995, supported by the single “The Garden of Allah” (this reached 16 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock radio chart). Over the next few years, Henley was quiet but he finally returned in 2000 with Inside Job, his first album for Warner Bros. Supported by the number one adult contemporary single “Taking You Home,” the album entered the Billboard charts at seven and was certified platinum.
Another prolonged period of solo inactivity followed — much of this time was devoted to political concerns. Saving Walden Pond, No Nukes, and Eagles — but in the early years of the 2010s, he began working on a new country-oriented album called Cass County. Co-produced by former Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers drummer Stan Lynch, which saw release in September 2015.