Top Don Henley Solo Songs of the '80s

Along with former Eagles songwriting partner Glenn Frey, Don Henley established himself as an important solo artist of the era following one of mainsteam rock music's most publicized band breakups. Although his solo compositions often left behind the country-rock influences of The Eagles' early years in favor of a sophisticated, literate modern pop music approach, record buyers generally responded with enthusiasm to his keyboards-heavy embrace of '80s pop. Here's a chronological look at Henley's best solo songs of this period.

of 06

"Dirty Laundry"

Album Cover for Don Henley's 1982 LP 'I Can't Stand Still'
Album Cover Image Courtesy of Asylum

It's not been uncommon over the years for Henley to be accused of self-important bombast in his lyrical concerns, and much of that could go back to this strident, often revealing examination of sensationalistic mass media culture. Fueled by a haunting synthesizer riff and a righteously indignant attitude toward the state of modern living, this song became a Top 5 pop hit in early 1983, anchoring Henley's debut solo album, I Can't Stand Still. As a songwriter, Henley makes observations here that seem amazingly prescient. If they were even partially true three decades ago (and they were), they're surely even more depressingly on target today. Henley would never enjoy a bigger hit as a solo artist, and in many ways his social commentary as a pop music artist may have reached its peak here as well.

of 06

"The Boys of Summer"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of Geffen

While with The Eagles and beyond, Henley often produced his best compositions when focusing on lost innocence and regret - particularly as they pertain to romantic relationships. Along these lines, this lead single from 1984's was an instant marvel, tapping into the kind of dark nostalgia that infects many people's most cherished memories. Having already collaborated with Danny Kortchmar on his first album, Henley added Mike Campbell from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as songwriting partner for this track. Musicians like these help add an extra layer of professionalism to Henley's most famous recordings, and there are good reasons why so many people consider "The Boys of Summer" to be the artist's signature solo achievement.

of 06

"Not Enough Love in the World"

Single Cover Image Courtesy of Geffen

In terms of purely lovely melody, this lesser single from Beast (shockingly, it barely even cracked the Billboard Top 40) may just stand as Henley's finest '80s offering of all. Lyrically, it functions as an effectively introspective, honest examination of a man's romantic faults as well as his undeniable devotion to his love. Musically, on the other hand, it deftly demonstrates Henley's keen understanding of soft rock melodicism. To be sure, this is not something that attracts for him a bevy of critical respect, but the sweetness of the artist's high tenor is nothing to be ashamed of, either. It's difficult to argue that Henley had long ago left behind the earthy country-rock leanings of The Eagles, but his best solo work delivers plenty of listening pleasure - often in spite of its sparkling studio sheen.

of 06

"You're Not Drinking Enough"

Despite a distinctively pop direction in Henley's solo work, this deep album track indeed hearkens back to the roots rock-oriented origins of Henley's California music career. For that reason, some record buyers may have been puzzled by the slow tempo and melancholy mood of this song, but longtime Henley fans likely found plenty to recognize in its indulgent but compelling narrative. Unusual also for its status as a solo Kortchmar songwriting credit, this selection nevertheless stands a prime evidence of the overall versatility of Henley's sophomore solo LP. Vocally speaking, the singer is in fine form here, and for many of his fans that may be all that's truly needed.

of 06

"The End of the Innocence"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of Geffen

After several years mired in record company battles, Henley resurfaced in 1989 with , a record that betrayed his weariness and disillusion with the political and social developments of the latter half of the '80s. Featuring piano and songwriting assistance from Bruce Hornsby, this track paints a poetic, contemplative portrait that continues to explore familiar but still-pressing themes. For some listeners - especially those who didn't completely agree with him - Henley and his musings probably came off preachy and self-congratulatory. Nevertheless, it's difficult to deny the depth of his combined musical and lyrical prowess on display here.

of 06

"The Last Worthless Evening"

Single Cover Image Courtesy of Geffen

For his last significant single of the '80s, Henley returned squarely to the well-worn topic of romantic relationships, and the result is another unsung classic of the era. Despite its high compositional quality, this tune also succeeded only modestly on Billboard's pop charts, falling just short of the Top 20 during the fall of 1989. Nevertheless, Henley's lyrical exploration of loneliness, battered hearts, and the general inclination of wounded psyches to resign themselves to disappointment packs a serious emotional punch for thoughtful listeners. Henley has always been a grand songwriter with a penchant for emotionally naked, confessional musical expression. However, in some ways the dense, layered nature of this track represents the finest example of this stubborn artistic impulse. That's a compliment, by the way.

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Your Citation
Peake, Steve. "Top Don Henley Solo Songs of the '80s." ThoughtCo, Feb. 21, 2017, Peake, Steve. (2017, February 21). Top Don Henley Solo Songs of the '80s. Retrieved from Peake, Steve. "Top Don Henley Solo Songs of the '80s." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 24, 2017).