Did The Eagles Really Rip-Off Jethro Tull?

via Eagles / Youtube

Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and Bernie Leadon, the creative forces behind the Eagles, rose to international stardom in the early 1970s with their unique blend of country-infused rock. Hits like ‘Take It Easy’ and ‘One of These Nights’ catapulted them to global acclaim, making them one of the most beloved and successful bands by 1975.

However, fans were surprised when Bernie Leadon left the band in 1975.

It was widely believed that his departure was due to his dissatisfaction with the Eagles’ shift from country to pop-rock. But Leadon refuted this in a 2013 Rolling Stone interview, saying:

“That’s an oversimplification. It implies that I had no interest in rock or blues or anything but country rock. That’s just not the case. I didn’t just play Fender Telecaster. I played a Gibson Les Paul, and I enjoyed rock ‘n’ roll. That’s evident from the early albums.”

Following Leadon’s departure, the Eagles brought in Joe Walsh from James Gang. With this new lineup, the band reached new heights in 1976 with their fifth album, Hotel California. The title track became a chart-topping hit, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

When ‘Hotel California’ first hit the airwaves, some listeners noticed its striking resemblance to Jethro Tull’s 1969 song ‘We Used To Know.’

Similarities like these have often led to legal battles in the music industry. However, the Eagles and Jethro Tull never went head-to-head over this matter.

In a 2010 conversation with Steve Davis, Jethro Tull’s frontman Ian Anderson addressed the issue. He believed that any structural similarities between the songs were either coincidental or the result of subconscious influence.

“A lot of people have mentioned to me the apparent similarity between ‘We Used To Know’ on the Stand Up album and the Eagles’ ‘Hotel California,'” Anderson said. “I had never really drawn any comparison at all until many, many years later, after ‘Hotel California’ came out.”

“But then, of course, Martin [Barre] and I did remember – I think it was in ’71 or ’72 – meeting the Eagles before they were rich and famous,” Anderson continued. “I think they [had] just released their very first single called ‘Take It Easy,’ and they were like almost a Country band. They were a kind of pleasant enough, kind of cheerful, funky-country sort of band.”

“They were an opening act for Jethro Tull, probably around the time or just before Thick As A Brick album in ’72,” he added. “At that point, I guess we were playing ‘We Used To Know’ on stage. So it’s quite possible that the Eagles back in their dressing room when they come offstage, you know, when they’re packing up their guitars and doing whatever, they may have heard this permeating through the dressing room walls. And as is so easily done, you pick up on something subconsciously.”

“It’s not a deliberate act of plagiarism,” Anderson concluded. “I mean, the rhythm is different, the melody is different. But it is the progression of the chords. In some ways, in which elements of the melody relate to it that it’s certainly some similarities.”

In the end, it appears that any similarities between these two iconic songs were not the result of intentional copying but rather a case of musical influence and coincidence.