Donald Hugh "Don" Henley (born July 22, 1947, Gilmer, Texas) is an American rock singer, songwriter and drummer, best known as a founding member of the Eagles before launching a successful seven time Grammy Award-winning solo career. His solo hits include "The Boys of Summer", "Dirty Laundry" and "The End of the Innocence". In 2008, he was ranked the 87th greatest singer of all time by Rolling Stone magazine.
Henley has also played a founding role in several environmental and political causes, most notably the Walden Woods Project. Since 1994, he has divided his musical activities between the Eagles and his solo career. He is known for his rusty, raw voice that is instantly recognizable. Henley also has a wide vocal range displayed in Eagles songs such as "One of These Nights", "Witchy Woman" and, "Sad Cafe".
Don Henley initially attended college at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. He then attended North Texas State University (renamed in 1986 the University of North Texas) in Denton, Texas during 1968 and 1969. He left to spend time with his father, who was dying from heart and arterial disease.
In 1970, he moved to Los Angeles to record an album with his early band, Shiloh. Shiloh's album was produced by fellow Texan Kenny Rogers. Shortly thereafter, Henley met Glenn Frey through Amos Records in Los Angeles. They both became members of Linda Ronstadt's backup band -- touring with her was the catalyst for forming the group in the first place. As a result, two months later they became their own act, Eagles. All four of the original Eagles are featured in the 1972 Ronstadt album Linda Ronstadt. Later, Ronstadt also covered one of the Eagles' songs "Desperado".
Tenure with the Eagles
The Eagles were formed in 1971, and released their first album in 1972, which contained the hit song "Take It Easy." During the band's run, Henley co-wrote (usually with Frey) most of the band's best-known songs, notably "Desperado." Henley sang lead vocals on many of the band's popular songs, including "Desperado," "The Best of My Love," "One of These Nights," "Hotel California," "The Long Run" "Life in the Fast Lane" and "Wasted Time". The Eagles won numerous Grammy Awards during the 1970s and became one of the most successful rock bands of all time. Their Greatest Hits (1971?1975) is considered the best-selling album ever (in America), in any category. They are also the only band to have two best-selling albums in the top 15 American best-sellers of all time and are also amongst the top 5 overall best-selling bands of all time in America.
The band broke up in 1980 following a difficult tour and increased personal tensions resulting from the recording of The Long Run. The Eagles subsequently reunited in 1994. Henley continues to tour and record with the Eagles, with their latest album, Long Road Out of Eden released in 2007.
Following the breakup of the Eagles, Henley embarked on a productive solo career, the most commercially successful of any of the Eagles. His first solo release, 1982's I Can't Stand Still, was a moderate seller. The single "Dirty Laundry", a denunciation of tabloid media, was Henley's all-time biggest hit. It reached #3 on Billboard's Hot 100 at the beginning of 1983 and earned a Gold-certified single for sales of over a million copies in the US. It was also nominated for a Grammy. Henley and his erstwhile lover, Stevie Nicks, had duetted on her Top 10 Pop and Ault Contemporary hit "Leather and Lace" a year earlier. Henley also contributed "Love Rules" to the Fast Times at Ridgemont High soundtrack.
This was followed in 1984 by Building the Perfect Beast, which featured layered synthesizers and was a marked departure from the Eagles' country-rock sound. A single release, "The Boys of Summer", reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song's haunting rhythms and lyrics of loss and aging, capped by seeing "a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac," immediately connected with a certain age group. The music video for the song was a striking, evocative, black-and-white, French New Wave-influenced montage directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino that won several MTV Video Music Awards including Best Video of the Year. Henley also won the Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for the song. Several other songs on the album, "All She Wants to Do Is Dance" (No. 9 on Hot 100), "Not Enough Love in the World" (#34) and "Sunset Grill" (#22) also received considerable airplay.
Henley's next album, 1989's The End of the Innocence, was even more successful. The song "The End of the Innocence", a collaboration with Bruce Hornsby, is a melancholy, piano-driven tale of finding bits of happiness in a corrupt world, and reached No. 8 as a single. The hit follow-up, "The Heart of the Matter", is an emotive chance remembrance of a lost love. Both songs use the effective technique of varying the words in the chorus each time it is sung, to advance the song's narrative. The album's "The Last Worthless Evening" and "New York Minute" were among other songs that gained radio airplay. Henley again won the Best Male Rock Vocal Performance Grammy in 1990 for the album. Also in 1989, Henley made a brief appearance on MTV's Unplugged series.
In live shows, Henley would play drums and sing simultaneously only on certain Eagles songs; on his solo songs he would either play electric guitar and sing or just sing. Occasionally Eagles songs would get drastic rearrangements, such as "Hotel California" with four trombones.
A long period without a new recording followed, as Henley waited out a dispute with his record company while also participating in a 1994 Eagles reunion tour and live album. During the hiatus, Henley recorded a cover of "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" for the film Leap of Faith, provided background vocals for country star Trisha Yearwood's hit single "Walkaway Joe", and duetted with Patty Smyth on "Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough" and Roger Waters on "Watching TV" on Waters' Amused to Death album, in 1992.
In 2000, after 11 years Henley released another solo studio recording, Inside Job, containing the lead single "Taking You Home". He performed songs from the album in a VH1 Storytellers episode in 2000. In 2002 a live DVD entitled Don Henley: Live Inside Job was released. In 2005 Don opened 10 of Stevie Nicks concerts on her Two Voices Tour.
Henley's most recent recording appearances include a duet with Kenny Rogers on Rogers' 2006 release Water & Bridges titled "Calling Me" and on Reba McEntire's 2007 album, Reba: Duets, performing "Break Each Other's Hearts Again".
In a 2007 interview with CNN, while discussing the future of the Eagles, Henley indicated he still has plans for more records: "But we all have some solo plans still. I still have a contract with a major label for a couple of solo albums."
Political and other causes
In 1990, Henley founded the Walden Woods Project to help protect Walden Woods from development. The Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods was started in 1998 to provide for research and education regarding Henry David Thoreau. In 2005, he had a fundraiser concert with Elton John and others to buy Bristor's Hill, part of Walden Woods, and turn it a hiking trail.
Henley co-founded the non-profit Caddo Lake Institute in 1993 to underwrite ecological education and research. As part of the Caddo Lake Coalition, CLI helps protect the Texas wetland where Henley spent much of his childhood.
In 2000, Henley co-founded with Sheryl Crow the Recording Artists' Coalition, a group founded to protect musicians' rights against common music industry business practices. In this role he testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary in 2001 and the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation in 2003.
Henley is not always an idealist. In a March 2001 interview on Charlie Rose, he stated that "rock bands work best as a benevolent dictatorship," with the principal songwriters in a band (in the case of the Eagles, "me and Glenn Frey") being the ones that will likely hold the power.
He has also been a generous donor to political campaigns. Henley has always been a supporter of the Democratic Party. The Washington Post found that since 1978, Henley has donated over $680,000 to political candidates.
In the late 1970s, early 1980s, Henley dated Fleetwood Mac musician Stevie Nicks, and had a long term relationship with actress/model and Bond girl Lois Chiles .
In the early 1980s, Henley was engaged to Battlestar Galactica actress Maren Jensen. His first solo album (I Can't Stand Still) is dedicated to Jensen, who also sings harmony vocals on the song "Johnny Can't Read." Henley and Jensen separated in 1986 .
In 1995, Henley married Sharon Summerall, a former model from Texas who had lived in Paris and studied art history. Performers at the wedding included Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Billy Joel, John Fogerty, Jackson Browne, Donna Lewis, Sheryl Crow, Glenn Frey, and Tony Bennett. Henley later wrote the song "Everything Is Different Now" from the album Inside Job for Sharon, and it has been announced that Sharon is suffering from multiple sclerosis. They have 3 children together, two girls and a boy.
Psychobilly musician Mojo Nixon wrote a song called "Don Henley Must Die." Some years later, Mojo was playing at Austin's Hole in the Wall when Don Henley, who was also scheduled to play in Austin, came in. Mojo announced he was going to play the song when Henley himself climbed up on stage and began beatboxing to the song, which left Mojo utterly speechless. The two have since become friends.
Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Don Henley
"I could stand out front and sing Eagles songs that I sing in my set, but I think people enjoy watching me sing and play the drums. It seems to fascinate people. I don't know why."
"I have things that I am interested in, and that's usually what comes out on the album."
"I would rather take a long time and make a record with eight or ten good songs on it than to rush one out with only one or two good songs on it, which is what I find to be the case most of the time."
"I'm always jotting things down on pieces of paper. I've got pieces of paper all over my house."
"I'm not scary; I'm just opinionated."
The indie band Dirty Projectors released a concept album around Don Henley in 2005 called The Getty Address which starts with Henley considering suicide but mostly ends with gibberish.