Eagles lead vocalist, lyricist, producer
Solo career spawned 9 top hits
Composer, recording star and environmental activist, Don Henley, in a somewhat unheralded way, has chalked up a number of significant records for sales and performances in the music world. Like many names in the crossover areas of pop and country, Henley, hails from Texas. In fact, as a young adult, he learned that his little town of Linden, Texas, where he grew up, also spawned the wonderful blues guitarist, T-Bone Walker and the historic ragtime pianist, Scott Joplin.
Henley is known for many accomplishments both on and off the concert stage and recording studio. He is celebrated as an extraordinarily adept songwriter, with a knack for capturing powerful emotional feelings as well as the mood of a special moment in time. A majority of his best remembered hit songs were recorded by his legendary Southern California band, The Eagles, whose roots go back to the early Hollywood music epicenter of Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Lookout Mountain Avenue. Many of the denizens of the Los Angeles music world, including Jackson Browne, The Mamas and Papas, Jim Messina, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and even Steve Martin once made their homes in the area, and Linda Ronstadt, with whom the Eagles worked often, lived a short distance away near the Capitol Records tower.
In terms of familiar melodies, many of Henley's songs have become established standards. These include "Heartache Tonight," "Lyin' Eyes," "Hotel California," "Life in The Fast Lane," "New Kid In Town," and "Desperado," which also was recorded by Ronstadt. All of them are on the basic menu of Classic Rock stations as well as adult contemporary and country music outlets.
As a youngster in Texas, Henley was exposed to many forms of musical Americana. He and his father would tune in to the famed Louisiana Hayride on KWKH in Shreveport and the Grand Ole Opry on WSM Radio in Nashville, Tennessee, introducing the young listener to such traditional country greats as Red Foley, Kitty Wells, Hank Williams, (Gentleman) Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline. Other influences on Henley were radio WNOL in New Orleans, bringing the exotic sounds of the music of the delta northward to Texas: the deep, resonant voice of "John R" (John Richborg) from WLAC in Nashville, from Oklahoma City's KOMA and of major importance, the nocturnal howls of the legendary Wolfman Jack from 600 miles south at the Texas - Mexico border. With a tiny transistor radio pressed against his ear in bed, Henley would listen until the wee hours to the music of Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Bobby Freeman, Chuck Willis and Bobby Blue Bland, among many others.
In high school, Henley organized his first band, The Four Speeds, with friends Richard Bowden and Jerry Surratt. Later, the band became Shiloh, which included Jim Ed Norman, later a Nashville record exec who would produce many of Anne Murray’s biggest hits.
In 1970, the band relocated to Los Angeles where they recorded a first album on an independent label, Amos Records. Also on Amos, was a young singer/songwriter, Glenn Frey, with whom Henley befriended. As a duo, they worked frequently with Ronstadt, a young singer from Arizona, also cutting her eye-teeth as a recording artist.
In the fall of 1971, Frey and Henley formed The Eagles, a group that was to pioneer a brand new American style of popular music, blending country and folk with standard pop. The band would go on to sell more than 100 million albums, worldwide, win four Grammies and top the album charts five times. The album, Eagles - Their Greatest Hits 1971-75, has sold more than 26 million copies.
Henley's solo career which commenced in the early '80s, has been almost equally successful beginning in 1982 with his debut solo effort, I Can't Stand Still, which contained the hit single, "Dirty Laundry." Other resounding album successes of the '80s included "'Building The Perfect Beast" in 1984, containing four more hit singles, "The Boys Of Summer," "All She Wants To Do Is Dance," "Sunset Grill," and "Not Enough Love in The World". Nominated that year for three Grammies, Henley won for Best Rock Vocal (Male) for "The Boys Of Summer." In 1989, came the album, The End Of Innocence, which produced three more hit singles, "The Heart Of The Matter," "The Last Worthless Evening" and the title track.
Aside from his busy recording career, Henley is an extremely dedicated activist, having founded the renowned Walden Woods Project in 1990, which has become one of the most successful preservation/educational endeavors in America. An outgrowth of Walden Woods is Henley’s Thoreau Institute, respected throughout the world as a facility that combines the best of history with state-of-the art cyber-learning techniques. Henley has organized and produced many benefit concerts for Vic Walden Woods Project. So far, more than 22 million dollars has been raised, much of which has been earmarked for the purchase of environmentally sensitive and historically significant acres in the Walden Pond environs just west of Boston.
Henley moved back to East Texas in 1997 with his wife and two children. Following an immensely successful Eagles reunion tour in the mid-90’s, he organized his first solo album in more than a decade. The new album, Inside Job, released in 2001, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album.