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Donald Hugh "Don" Henley (born July 22, 1947) is an American singer, songwriter and drummer, best known as a founding member of the Eagles before launching a successful solo career. Henley was the drummer and lead vocalist for the Eagles from 1971–1980, when the band broke up. Henley sings lead vocals on Eagles hits such as "Witchy Woman", "Desperado", "Best of My Love", "One of These Nights", "Hotel California", "Life in the Fast Lane", and "The Long Run".
After the Eagles broke up in 1980, Henley pursued a solo career and released his debut album in 1982. He has released four studio albums, two compilation albums, and one live DVD. His solo hits include "Dirty Laundry", "The Boys of Summer", "All She Wants to Do Is Dance", "The Heart of the Matter", "The Last Worthless Evening", "Sunset Grill", "Not Enough Love in the World", "New York Minute" and "The End of the Innocence".
The Eagles have sold over 120 million albums worldwide, won six Grammy Awards, had five #1 singles, 17 Top 40 singles, and six #1 albums. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 and are the biggest selling American band in history. As a solo artist, Henley has sold over 10 million albums worldwide, had eight Top 40 singles, won two Grammys and five MTV Video Music Awards. Combined with the Eagles and as a solo artist, Henley has released 25 Top 40 singles on the Billboard Hot 100. He has released seven studio albums with the Eagles and four as a solo artist. In 2008, he was ranked the 87th greatest singer of all time by Rolling Stone magazine.
Henley has also played a founding role in several environmental and political causes, most notably the Walden Woods Project. Since 1994, he has divided his musical activities between the Eagles and his solo career.
Henley was born in Gilmer, Texas, and grew up in the small northeast Texas town of Linden. He is the son of Hughlene (McWhorter) and C. J. Henley. He initially attended college at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. He then attended North Texas State University (renamed in 1988 as University of North Texas) in Denton, Texas, from 1967 to 1969. Henley left school to spend time with his father, who was dying from heart and arterial disease.
In 1970, he moved to Los Angeles to record an album with his early band, Shiloh. Shiloh's album was produced by fellow Texan Kenny Rogers. Shortly thereafter, Henley met Glenn Frey. They both became members of Linda Ronstadt's backup band. Touring with her was the catalyst for forming the group. As a result, two months later they, along with Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner, became their own act, Eagles.
The Eagles were formed in September 1971, and released their first album in 1972, which contained the hit song "Take It Easy", written by Frey and Jackson Browne. During the band's run, Henley co-wrote (usually with Frey) most of the band's best-known songs.
Henley sang lead vocals on many of the band's popular songs, including "Desperado", "Witchy Woman", "Best of My Love", "One of These Nights", "Hotel California", "The Long Run", "Life in the Fast Lane" and "Wasted Time". The Eagles won numerous Grammy Awards during the 1970s and became one of the most successful rock bands of all time. They are also among the top 5 overall best-selling bands of all time in America and the highest selling American band in U.S. history.
The band broke up in 1980, following a difficult tour and personal tensions that arose during the recording of The Long Run. The Eagles subsequently reunited in 1994. Henley continues to tour and record with the Eagles. Their latest album, Long Road Out of Eden, was released in 2007.
In 2013, the two-part documentary History of the Eagles, directed by Alison Ellwood and co-produced by Academy Award winner Alex Gibney, was aired on Showtime. The authorised documentary caused a stir among fans, since it reportedly "shines a surprisingly harsh light on Glenn Frey and Don Henley, the group's chief songwriters and self-appointed leaders," and includes footage demonstrating that "Frey and Henley [were] dictators who berate their bandmates."
Following the breakup of the Eagles, Henley embarked on a solo career. He and Stevie Nicks (his girlfriend at the time) had duetted on her Top 10 Pop and Adult Contemporary hit "Leather and Lace", written by Nicks for Waylon Jennings and his wife Jessie Colter, in late 1981. Henley's first solo album, 1982's I Can't Stand Still, was a moderate seller. The single "Dirty Laundry" reached #3 on Billboard Hot 100 at the beginning of 1983 and earned a Gold-certified single for sales of over a million copies in the US. It was Henley's all-time biggest solo hit and was nominated for a Grammy. Henley also contributed "Love Rules" to the 1982 Fast Times at Ridgemont High' soundtrack.
This was followed in 1984 by Building the Perfect Beast. A single release, "The Boys of Summer", reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. The music video for the song was directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino and won several MTV Video Music Awards including Best Video of the Year. Henley also won the Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for the song. Several other songs on the album, "All She Wants to Do Is Dance" (No. 9 on Hot 100), "Not Enough Love in the World" (#34) and "Sunset Grill" (#22) also received considerable airplay. He then had a #3 album rock chart hit with "Who Owns This Place?" from 1986's The Color of Money soundtrack.
Henley's next album, 1989's The End of the Innocence, was even more successful. The song "The End of the Innocence", a collaboration with Bruce Hornsby reached No. 8 as a single. "The Heart of the Matter", "The Last Worthless Evening" and "New York Minute" were among other songs that gained radio airplay. Henley again won the Best Male Rock Vocal Performance Grammy in 1990 for the album. Also in 1989, Henley made a brief appearance on MTV's Unplugged series.
In 1995 Henley released the single "The Garden of Allah" to promote his greatest hits solo album Actual Miles: Henley's Greatest Hits.
In live shows, Henley would play drums and sing simultaneously only on certain Eagles songs. On his solo songs he would either play electric guitar and sing or just sing. Occasionally Eagles songs would get drastic rearrangements, such as "Hotel California" with four trombones.
Don Henley spent many years in legal entanglements with record company Geffen Records. Following years of tension between Henley and the label, the dispute went public and the record company filed a $30-million breach-of-contract suit in Superior Court after receiving a notice from Henley saying he was terminating his contract even though he reportedly owed the company two more studio albums and a greatest-hits collection. Henley wanted to sign a publishing deal with EMI that would have been worth a few million dollars. Geffen Records stopped this from happening, which in turn upset Henley.
Geffen Records claimed that Henley was in breach of contract and Henley attempted to get out of his contract in 1993 based on an old statute. Under the statute, a California law enacted over 50 years ago to free actors from long-term studio deals, entertainers cannot be forced to work for any company for more than seven years. Geffen Records did not want Henley signing with any other label, and had an agreement from Sony and EMI that they would not sign Henley. Henley counter-sued Geffen Records claiming he was "blackballed" by David Geffen, who made agreements with other record labels not to sign him. Henley eventually became an outspoken advocate for musicians' rights, taking a stand against music labels whom he feels refuse to pay bands their due royalties. Henley came to terms with Geffen Records when the Eagles reunion took off and the company eventually took a large chunk of the profit from the reunion album. Glenn Frey was also in legal entanglements with his label, MCA Records (whose parent company had also acquired Geffen). Before the Eagles reunion tour could begin, the band had to file suit against Elektra Records, who had planned to release a new Eagles Greatest Hits album. The band won that battle.
Don Henley and Courtney Love testified at a California Senate hearing on that state's contractual laws in Sacramento on September 5, 2001. In 2002 Henley became the head of the Recording Artist's Coalition. The coalition's primary aim was to raise money to mount a legal and political battle against the major record labels. Henley says the group seeks to change the fundamental rules that govern most recording contracts, including copyright ownership, long-term control of intellectual property and unfair accounting practices. This group filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Napster case, urging District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel not to accept the industry's broad claims of works made for hire authorship.
A long period without a new recording followed, as Henley waited out a dispute with his record company while also participating in a 1994 Eagles reunion tour and live album. During the hiatus, Henley recorded a cover of "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" for the film Leap of Faith, provided background vocals for country star Trisha Yearwood's hit single "Walkaway Joe", and duetted with Patty Smyth on "Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough" and Roger Waters on "Watching TV" on Waters' Amused to Death album, in 1992. Henley provided the voice of Henry Faust in Randy Newman's Faust, a 1993 musical which was released on compact disc that year.
In 2000, after 11 years, Henley released another solo studio recording, Inside Job, containing the single "Taking You Home". He performed songs from the album in a VH1 Storytellers episode in 2000. In 2002 a live DVD entitled Don Henley: Live Inside Job was released. In 2005 Henley opened 10 of Stevie Nicks' concerts on her Two Voices Tour.
Henley performed duets with Kenny Rogers on Rogers' 2006 release Water & Bridges titled "Calling Me" and on Reba McEntire's 2007 album, Reba: Duets, performing "Break Each Other's Hearts Again".
In a 2007 interview with CNN, while discussing the future of the Eagles, Henley indicated he still has plans for more records: "But we all have some solo plans still. I still have a contract with a major label [Warner] for a couple of solo albums."
In January 2011, Henley commenced work on a solo album of country covers featuring special guests. Ronnie Dunn from Brooks & Dunn and Alison Krauss have recorded a song with Henley for the album.
On April 1, 2013, during a concert at Casino Rama in Rama, Ontario, Henley announced a new reunion tour for the Eagles, potentially beginning as early as late 2013.
In 1990, Henley founded the Walden Woods Project to help protect "Walden Woods" from development. The Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods was started in 1998 to provide for research and education regarding Henry David Thoreau. In 1993, a compilation album titled Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles was released, with a portion of the royalties from the sales going to the Walden Woods Project. In 2005, he had a fundraiser concert with Elton John and others to buy Brister's Hill, part of Walden Woods, and turn it into a hiking trail.
Henley co-founded the non-profit Caddo Lake Institute in 1993 with Dwight K. Shellman to underwrite ecological education and research. As part of the Caddo Lake Coalition, CLI helps protect the Texas wetland where Henley spent much of his childhood. As a result of the Caddo Lake Institute's success in restoring and protecting Caddo Lake's wetlands, Caddo Lake was included as the 13th site in the United States on the Ramsar Convention's list of significant wetlands. The Ramsar Convention is an intergovernmental treaty that provides a framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
In 2000, Henley co-founded the Recording Artists' Coalition, a group founded to protect musicians' rights against common music industry business practices. In this role he testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary in 2001 and the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation in 2003.
Henley is not always an idealist. In a March 2001 interview on Charlie Rose, he stated that "rock bands work best as a benevolent dictatorship," with the principal songwriters in a band (in the case of the Eagles, "me and Glenn Frey") being the ones that will likely hold the power.
He has also been a generous donor to political campaigns of Democrats. Henley has always been a supporter of the Democratic Party. In 2008 The Washington Post reported that since 1978, Henley had donated over $680,000 to political candidates.
During a concert at Chastain Park in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2005, Henley made known his dislike of then-president George W. Bush for which he received mostly cheers along with some boos. Several tracks on the 2007 Eagles album Long Road Out of Eden (including the title track, which Henley co-wrote) are sharply critical of the Iraq War and other policies of the Bush administration.
In the late 1970s, Henley briefly dated Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks, as her affair with Mick Fleetwood came to an end. He then began a three-year-long relationship with actress/model and Bond girl Lois Chiles.
Paramedics were called to Henley's home on November 21, 1980, where a 16-year-old girl was found naked and claiming she had overdosed on quaaludes and cocaine. She was arrested for prostitution, whilst a 15-year-old girl found in the house was arrested for being under the influence of drugs. After pleading no contest, he was fined $2,500 and put on two years' probation. Chiles, who was no longer in a relationship with Henley at the time of the incident, later said, "I was shocked to hear about it. He didn't have drugs around the house. It was an accident, I'm sure."
In the early 1980s, Henley was engaged to Battlestar Galactica actress Maren Jensen. His first solo album (I Can't Stand Still) is dedicated to Jensen, who also sings harmony vocals on the song "Johnny Can't Read." Henley and Jensen separated in 1986.
In 1995, Henley married Sharon Summerall, a former model from Texas who had lived in Paris and studied art history. Performers at the wedding included Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Billy Joel, John Fogerty, Jackson Browne, Donna Lewis, Sheryl Crow, Glenn Frey, and Tony Bennett. Henley later wrote the song "Everything Is Different Now" from the album Inside Job for Sharon. Sharon has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. They have three children together, two girls and a boy. Henley also has another child, a daughter, from a previous relationship. His eldest child was born in 1975, near the height of the Eagles fame.
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Image from Discogs