Ranking Don Henley’s Greatest Lyrics

via Don Henley / Youtube

Don Henley, celebrated for his remarkable songwriting contributions with both the Eagles and as a solo artist, possesses a unique talent for crafting lyrics that paint vivid pictures and set evocative scenes. His songs have left an indelible mark on the world of music, and in this article, we’ll rank five of his most exceptional lyrical achievements.

5. “Life in the Fast Lane”

“Call the doctor, I think I’m gonna crash” / “The doctor say he’s comin’, but you gotta pay him cash” / They went rushin’ down that freeway, messed around and got lost / They didn’t care, they were just dyin’ to get off”

“Life in the Fast Lane” serves as an extended metaphor for the hedonistic world of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. In the lines above, Henley employs a car crash as a symbol representing the descent from a euphoric high. While Henley certainly wasn’t the trailblazer in using car culture to symbolize more illicit pursuits, “Life in the Fast Lane” undeniably stands as one of the most exemplary expressions of this concept.

4.“Wasted Time”

“So you can get on with your search, baby / And I can get on with mine / Maybe someday we will find / That it wasn’t really wasted time”

Within the Eagles’ repertoire, “Wasted Time” stands as one of Henley’s standout moments. This intimate ballad conveys a profound message of forgiveness and the attainment of closure. Henley succinctly encapsulates these themes with the aforementioned lyrics. In a musical landscape often populated by vengeful breakup anthems, Henley presents a composition that distinctly takes on a more passive and reflective tone.

3. “New Kid in Town”

“You look in her eyes the music begins to play / Hopeless romantics here we go again / But after awhile you’re lookin’ the other way / It’s those restless hearts that never mend”

In “New Kid in Town,” The Eagles delved into the recurring pattern of love. While the song provides an extended narrative of this phenomenon, the lines above distill it into a single stanza. Henley, along with co-writers Frey and J. D. Souther, conveys the idea that no matter how deeply one falls in love, time eventually leads to new attractions. It’s a reflection on those hearts that remain perpetually unsettled and unrepaired.

2. “The Heart of the Matter”

“These times are so uncertain / There’s a yearning undefined / And people filled with rage / We all need a little tenderness / How can love survive / In such a graceless age?”

The complete composition of “The Heart of the Matter” is truly remarkable. Henley shares valuable insights gained over time about love, dealing with loss, and the process of moving forward. The mentioned lines broaden the song’s thematic landscape, offering commentary on the state of the world. He poses a thought-provoking question, asking whether love can endure in an era where it doesn’t always come naturally. This question remains just as pertinent today as it was back in 1989.

1. “Desperado”

“Desperado, why not come to your senses? / Come down from your fences, open the gate / Though it may be raining, there’s a rainbow above you / You better let somebody love you”

“Desperado” stands as one of the Eagles’ most poignant songs, featured on their concept album of the same name. Few tracks capture the Western ambiance of the album quite like its title track. Listening to this song, one can almost envision a solitary cowboy on the open range. This vivid imagery owes much to the visual lyrics penned by Henley and Glenn Frey.