Top 10 Don Henley Songs
Once the acrimonious breakup of the Eagles became public knowledge in 1982 (they had been inactive since 1980), members of the band were free to pursue various projects. Drummer Don Henley would go on to the most successful solo career. While his output may be sporadic, Henley has proven his worth as a solo artist, selling more than 11 million records over the past 30 years. Our list of the Top 10 Don Henley Songs spans his solo career. (Note: Many of these songs aren't available on YouTube.)
Judging by this piano-driven ballad from 2000's Inside Job, he has few qualms settling into his older age. Even though "Taking You Home," the first song on our list of the Top 10 Don Henley Songs, was bound to be a hit, thanks to its reflective nature, the song's lyrics are undoubtedly some of the most personal that Henley has ever written.
The lyrics of "Sunset Grill" reflect a certain hopelessness. But they also reflect some eventual optimism as the song's narrator comes to the conclusion that the Grill is like home -- everything is familiar. The extended outro of the song focuses largely around the synthesizer (reportedly arranged by Randy Newman), which also figures rather prominently throughout the remainder of the track. Henley's tendencies to sing about real subjects are perfectly exemplified here. The Sunset Grill is very much a real place, housed on Sunset Boulevard in California.
With his 1989 album, The End of the Innocence, Henley wisely chose to give the keyboards that figured so prominently on Building the Perfect Beast a rest. This gives songs like "The Last Worthless Evening" considerably more breathing room for the muted guitar and strong vocals.
New York might be known to some as the city that never sleeps, but on this 1989 hit, Henley betrays that notion rather openly. A lush set of strings opens the song and are featured throughout the track. And while the backing vocals are absolutely gorgeous, that lushness gives way to rather dark lyrics about just how quickly things can change.
"Dirty Laundry" is the only entry in our list of Top 10 Don Henley Songs that comes from his 1982 debut solo LP I Can't Stand Still. The song's lyrics offer an amusing but scathing commentary on failed aspirations while also dealing with people's seemingly insatiable appetite for wanting others to fail. Appropriately enough, the song is set to a slinky keyboard track that helps set the sinister mood.
Co-written by Tom Petty's guitarist Mike Campbell, the Byrdsian opening guitar chords of "The Heart of the Matter" sound like a Petty song. The lyrics to the mid-tempo ballad support forgiveness while the narrator takes the opportunity to self-examine after seeing an ex with someone new. The song was reportedly inspired by real-life events: Henley and co-writer J.D. Souther each found themselves in similar circumstances around the time the song was written.
The bulk of Building the Perfect Beast is centered around keyboards as lead instrument. And while they figure into "Not Enough Love in the World," the song owes more to old-school R&B than '80s pop. The track is one of Henley's most soulful, but it also shows fans that he could be as much of a hopeless romantic as the next guy.
The keyboards on the hit "All She Wants to Do Is Dance" can be a little overbearing at times. And there's a somewhat silly and predictable rhyming scheme to the song (not to mention it bears many sonic hallmarks of the era in which it was recorded). Still, it's one of Henley's hookiest and most fun songs.
One of Henley's most poignant tracks also happens to be one of his strongest musical statements. "The End of the Innocence" packs an immediate punch. Written by Henley and Bruce Hornsby, the song is as cynical as it is hopeful, written at the tail end of the Reagan era.
One of the best-ever coming-of-age songs may or may not be autobiographical. But how can one read lyrics like "Don't look back, you can never look back" and not think of the Eagles breakup? Regardless of meaning, "The Boys of Summer" helped solidify Henley's voice outside of his former band and heads our list of the Top 10 Don Henley Songs.