Awesome Exclusive Interview with Don Henley of the Eagles
Win tickets to see the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famer bring his solo set to Wente Vineyards in Livermore on September 20
Photo by Sam Jones
I was excited to check my e-mail earlier today to discover that rock legend Don Henley had responded to my questions about his upcoming solo concert at Wente Vineyards in Livermore, his ongoing success with the Eagles, his collaborations with other musicians, and his remarkable efforts to preserve Walden Woods. Here's what Henley had to say:
Your upcoming concert at Wente Vineyards on September 20 offers your fans a chance to see you in an incredibly intimate setting, as opposed to the massively successful Eagles shows, which tend to be in enormous venues. As a performer, what are the delights of playing these smaller venues?
DH: In smaller venues, the acoustics generally tend to be better. Also, I can get a better sense of the audience. I can see their faces. I can also hear some of them talking to their seatmates or on their cell phones during the ballads. I can see them checking e-mail or texting. A small venue, these days, is a mixed blessing.
The Eagles have been reunited now for a longer period than the original run of the band, and you’ll be back in the East Bay just a few weeks after the Wente show to play at the Oakland Arena on October 2. What is most satisfying thing about the ongoing success of the band, and being able to perform “Already Gone” to stadium crowds after all these years?
DH: The most satisfying thing about the ongoing success of the band is the ongoing success of the band.
What is the most under-appreciated Eagles song?
DH: “Waiting in the Weeds.”
“The Boys of Summer” started as a demo by Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell. Tom Petty has said that he was too messed up to do anything with the song at the time, and it became a monster hit as a Don Henley single. Can you talk about this collaboration—and what it was like to work with Campbell, whose tremendous talents had been so tightly knit with Petty.
DH: Well, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers is one of my favorite bands of all time. I’ve known those guys for many years. Mike and I are both quasi-rednecks from the South, so we have a sort of cultural bond. He has a deadpan, dry sense of humor that I appreciate. Mike is a versatile guitarist and his sound is very distinctive. It’s one of the best around. He’s always working – on a song, a project – something. I would simply go over to his home studio and listen to the things he was putting together and if I heard something that struck my fancy, he’s put it on a cassette and I’d take it home and work on it. That’s how “The Boys of Summer” came about.
You also co-wrote with former Heartbreaker Stan Lynch on several key End of the Innocence tracks. Is there a brotherhood among rock musicians at this level? Which artists would you most like to collaborate with on a future project?
DH: Stan is one of my best friends, my son’s godfather. We work together often and are currently co-producing my next album, which will be a collection of country songs – originals and covers. He’s another quasi-redneck who is amazingly gifted and has a killer sense of humor. His dad was a professor at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and Stan lives on a sheep and timber farm, east of there. I think that there are many different brotherhoods or cliques that exist among successful musicians, depending on age, background, experience and musical tastes. And it’s interesting to note that all the disparate brotherhoods get along, for the most part.
I’d like to collaborate with Keb Mo, Randy Newman, Alison Krauss, Rebecca Crenshaw, Merle Haggard.
I just had the great pleasure of seeing the Levon Helm Band perform recently. Who is your favorite drummer/vocalist of all time?
DH: I would have to say that Levon is my favorite in this category.
Your song ”Dirty Laundry” made a good point about the cheap theatrics of tabloid media when it came out in 1982/83, just as the great film Network did in 1976—but when you were writing that song, did you envision a future of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and Gawker.com, or was the song prescient beyond even your imagination?
DH: The whole news media thing has gotten worse than I ever imagined.
The line between hard news and theater – between solid, unbiased reporting and “info-tainment”—has become blurred, almost to the point of non-existence. Mean-spirited sensationalism is the order of the day on television. Talk radio has made civilized debate nearly impossible. It has seriously damaged our political system by pedaling ratings-driven propaganda and hate speech. As I’ve often said, I think that Rupert Murdoch is the father of this unfortunate trend, which shows no sign of abating. Copycats abound, including once-respectable mainstream news outlets. Add to that the self-appointed “experts”—the culture of amateurs—that has sprung up on the Internet, and you’ve got a whole new paradigm.
The other side of the coin, of course, is that there’s a demand, a hunger out there for this sort of crap, and it doesn’t bode well for the future of American culture. Apparently, there are great numbers of people in this nation who are incapable of thinking for themselves; whose lives are so intellectually barren that they actually have nothing better to do than listen to Rush Limbaugh; people whose lives are so uninteresting that they revel in reports on the latest follies of Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan. Not only are we going fiscally bankrupt; we’re going culturally bankrupt, as well. Every man, woman and adolescent in this country should watch the films Network and Being There.
The Walden Woods Project received great notice as an environmentally conscious/wild space protection program long before it was hip to be green. What advice do you have for young people who would like to start programs to preserve the environment and open spaces from development?
DH: This year, we are celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the founding of the Walden Woods Project. It’s been a remarkable experience and a lot has been accomplished (see: http://www.walden.org/), but there is still a tremendous amount of work to do. I would advise young people to start small, start locally.
Our other website - http://www.worldwidewaldens.org/ - offers excellent information about how to get involved and make a difference in your own community and how to share you concerns and discoveries with young people on other continents. It’s a wonderful program.
I saw an interview with Charlie Rose a few years back in which you told a remarkable story about visiting a remote village with CARE, and realizing they had a cassette player with Hotel California in it. I’d love to revisit that story, or to share any anecdote about a mind-blowing realization about how far your music has traveled to reach an audience.
DH: The song has somehow made its way into all corners of the globe, including some very remote places. The village you are referring to is on an isolated mountaintop in Honduras. The people there live without electricity or modern plumbing. It was the last place I expected to be recognized, but after we had been there for about 15 minutes, a young man went into a hut and reappeared with a beat-up, old cassette player that contained a cassette of Hotel California. He pointed to the cassette player and then to me and said, “You!”
Another interesting incident occurred back in the spring of 2001 when a U.S Navy surveillance plane collided in mid-air with a communist Chinese fighter jet. A Chinese pilot was killed and the U.S. spy plane had to make an emergency landing on the Chinese-controlled island of Hainan in the South China Sea. The 24 crew members were captured and interrogated by the Chinese authorities until the U.S. government issued a letter of apology. During the 11 days of their detainment, the crew gradually developed good relations with their guards, with one guard asking them for the lyrics to "Hotel California".
I also know that “Hotel California” has traveled into space with astronauts and cosmonauts on numerous space shuttle missions. Music still transcends all barriers and boundaries, and we’re grateful to be a part of that.
Don Henley headlines Wente Vineyards on September 20. Tickets are available here, and Diablo has two tickets to give to a lucky reader—fill out the form below for a chance to win!