‘Desperado’: the Eagles classic that Don Henley wishes he could do again

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One of the most popular and influential bands in the annals of rock music is The Eagles. They put out a number of popular tracks that contributed to defining the sound of 70s rock. The ensemble became one of the most well-liked acts of the time thanks to their distinctive harmonies, deft guitar playing, and catchy melodies.

It goes without saying that “Desperado” is one of the Eagles‘ most enduring and well-liked songs. It was included on their 1973 album of the same name and was penned by Don Henley and Glenn Frey. A lone outlaw who is spending life on the run and unable to settle down or find love is the subject of the song. The song’s words serve as a moving reminder of how short life is and how crucial it is to make the most of it. You might be surprised to learn that Don Henley’s vocal performance on that particular song is one of his greatest regrets.

They had to go back into the studio to record the follow-up after their first album’s triumph, as they couldn’t rely solely on it. Henley and Glenn Frey started writing songs about outcasts of society after coming across a gunslinger novel with Jackson Browne. Between the criminal activities, “Desperado” served as a scathing warning to the lonely street child about what might happen if he gambles with his life.

The song’s original inspiration originated from legend Ray Charles. According to Henley, “I said, ‘When I play it and sing it, I think of Ray Charles – Ray Charles and Stephen Foster. It’s really a Southern gothic thing, but we can easily make it more Western.’ Glenn leapt right on it – filled in the blanks and brought structure.”

When recording the vocals with the help of an orchestra, Henley recalled being an anxious wreck. By the time they completed recording it, Henley had lost interest in the song he had originally written in 1968. According to Songfacts, he told Mojo,

“Some older gentleman had brought chessboard, and they would play between takes. I would hear these remarks like, ‘Well, you know, I don’t feel much like a desperado.’ I was so intimidated that I didn’t sing my best. Our producer Glyn Johns, who is still a friend of mine, I think, wanted to get the album done quickly and economically, and he didn’t let me do many takes. I wish I could have done that song again.”

Although it is one of their best-known songs, “Desperado” wasn’t made famous by the Eagles. Linda Ronstadt’s adaptation of the song was the first rendition of the song to become popular. Henley said that Ronstadt’s rendition of his song was flattering to him because they had previously collaborated with him and Frey as part of her backup band. He said, “It was really her that popularised the song. Her version was very poignant and beautiful.”

Listen to the song below.

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