The Eagles are the most popular American band of all time. But, how good were their solo careers after the band broke up in 1980? This is the first of a three-part series on the Eagles as solo artists, and we start with the most successful…Don Henley.
“Going solo” doesn’t work out for a lot of ex-band-members, but Don Henley’s solo work makes an impressive career all by itself.
His first album was I Can’t Stand Still, released in August of 1982. The album sold well, but of course nothing like an Eagle’s album. “Dirty Laundry” was a #3 hit single, and the album achieved Gold status while going to #24. Bob Seger co-wrote one of my favorite cuts “Nobody’s Business”. A couple of ex-Eagles and one almost-Eagle appeared in minor capacities…Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmit, and J.D. Souther. Frankly, the musical credits on all of Henley’s albums look like a who’s who in the music business.
Two years later, in 1984, Henley really solidified his solo career with his Building The Perfect Beast album. It had four hit singles…”The Boys Of Summer”, “All She Wants To Do Is Dance”, “Not Enough Love In The World”, and “Sunset Grill”. By this time in the 1980’s there were lots of charts. “Boys” and “Dance” were both Top 10 hits, and both hit #1 on the Mainstream Rock chart. Henley was even on the Dance and R&B charts with “All She Wants To Do Is Dance”. “The Boys Of Summer” won a Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal. Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers co-wrote & produced the song. The album itself sold over 3-million copies in the U.S. alone.
And the hits just kept on coming.
The End Of The Innocence was Don Henley’s biggest album. It was released in 1989, and sold over 6-million copies. It also produced another four hits…”The End Of The Innocence” (co-written with Bruce Hornsby), “The Last Worthless Evening”, “Heart Of The Matter”, and “New York Minute”. On the Mainstream Rock chart, “Innocence” hit #1, “Evening #4, and “Heart” #2. “New York Minute” was a hit on the Adult Contemporary chart at #5. Henley scored another Grammy for Male Rock Vocalist for “The End Of The Innocence”.
Then…The Eagles Got Back Together.
(You can read about it in the article: Eagles…Hell Freezes Over.)
Don Henley’s career also included many duets. He had a #6 hit with Stevie Nicks on “Leather And Lace”. He reached #2 with Patty Smyth on “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough”. He recorded two country hits with Trisha Yearwood…”Walkaway Joe” & “Hearts In Armor”, and he sang with Linda Ronstadt on “Hasten Down The Wind”.
It wasn’t until after years of Eagles’ touring that Don Henley released another album…Inside Job, in 2000. The album hit #7 on the Billboard album chart. By now his music was classified as “Adult”, in that the single “For My Wedding” was #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart, and “Taking You Home” was #12 on the Adult Top 40 chart. It would be 15 years and more Eagles touring before Henley released another album.
This time it was a country album, although there are still songs that fit the Eagles’ sound. I realize most people haven’t heard Cass County. I bought the 16-song deluxe version from iTunes when it came out in 2015, and my review is that it’s one of his best albums. There are quite a few duets, and lots of country artists…Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Dolly Parton, Martina McBride, Merle Haggard, Miranda Lambert, Trisha Yearwood, and more. Although there are a few traditional country songs, the majority of the tracks are new original songs written by Don Henley and Stan Lynch, formerly of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.
The Cass County album reached #3 on Billboard’s album chart, and #1 on the Country chart. Despite the somewhat grumpy looking cover photo, Henley says it’s the most he’s ever enjoyed recording an album, because of all the artists who performed with him. At this point in his career there’s also much less pressure.
Don Henley is the last original member still in the Eagles. It would be hard to find many artists who had a career that included so much great music…as part of a group, and as a solo artist. In his song “The Boys Of Summer” he says “Don’t look back, you can never look back.”, but if he ever does look back at his career…he deserves to be very proud of the music he created.
(Please check out: Glenn Frey….Solo Eagles Part 2 and Joe Walsh…Solo Eagles Part 3.)