Today is Don Henley's 70th birthday. Instead of his fans bestowing gifts on him, he is giving them a giant present in the form of a special birthday concert in Dallas. To celebrate that, we thought we would jot down some thoughts on why we are fans of Don Henley.
1. His songs. They have got to be #1, right? Don is inarguably one of America's leading songwriters. The work he applies to his craft is impeccable. For us, it's mostly about the lyrics and nobody can turn a phrase like Don can. He can take a common phrase like "Dirty Laundry" or "If Dirt Were Dollars" or "Best of My Love" and turn it into hit. His lyrics are sprinkled with literary references, biblical passages and raw emotion. He name drops everyone from Charles Baudelaire to Merle Haggard to Elvis. He's written probably the most beautiful and poetic critique of the Reagan administration. His songs touch you where you are...they evoke life in small towns, the love of family, nostalgia and hope for the future. They connect us all and we are better for having heard them.
2. His voice. There's a common saying that someone could sing the phone book and everyone would listen. That's probably true of Don. His singular and unique voice is a wonder to listen to. People try to describe it with words like "whiskey tinged gravel" or "twangy rasp" but how do you describe something that is hard and soft at the same time? How do you put words to a voice that is urbane and homey? When you hear Don sing, you know it is him and his voice draws you in. It is a joy to listen to. And nothing makes us weak in the knees like his vocals on "Leather and Lace".
3. His brain. Don is smart. We mentioned above the literary references he peppers in his lyrics. He reads and he processes and he makes connections. If you've ever had the chance to listen to him give a speech you can tell how much he works to gather information and put it together in a way that makes sense. He remembers obscure facts and details and uses them to back up his points. He asks questions and demands answers. He can speak about history or politics or literature with ease. In a culture that celebrates stupidity and ignorance, Don is a breath of fresh air.
4. His heart. Don is kind and he is giving. Glenn once spoke about how he and Don prefer to be quiet givers. He gave the example of how Don bought band uniforms for a high school or books for a library in North Dakota without bragging or needing praise or recognition. He gives his time, his money and talent to causes he believes in. He has worked tirelessly and given thousands of dollars to protect wild places, artists rights and basic Constitutional freedoms. We also appreciate how Don uses his heart to better the places that are important to him. Walden spoke to him as a young man, so he felt inspired to help preserve it for others who felt the same way. Not content, though, to take care of this place so far from his home, Don then turned his attention to his backyard...to his hometown of Linden and nearby Caddo Lake. We love that Don tells people to find their own personal Walden and to work to improve their own communities as he has done for his corner of East Texas. We can all make a difference where we live. The world is full of special places that need help and Don has led the way. Speaking from personal experiences, there have been a few times when Don has gone out of his way to help us with a sticky situation and we are extremely grateful for that.
5. His humor. Don is a funny guy. Listen to him at a concert shutting down a heckler by remarking, "I remember when I had my first beer!". He can tell a story like the time he almost got beaten up at the Troubadour with self-deprecation and heart. He has got a warm, genuine smile and uses it more frequently than people give him credit for.
6. His relationship with Glenn. Like Glenn said at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the relationships in the Eagles had peaks and valleys. We were witness to some of that. We know that sometimes Don was frustrated with Glenn. We know that they broke up in 1980. But they remained close. They found a way to make it work. We've mentioned this before and I think we do so often because it was such a profound thing to witness, but everything you want to know about how Don felt about Glenn was on display when Don shut down the Felder heckler in Detroit on Glenn's birthday. That was when Glenn was sick, but few people knew it and the emotion wrapped up in Don's righteous anger, showed how deeply Don felt for his bandmate, songwriting partner and surrogate brother.
7. His fans. We know he doesn't control who likes him and who doesn't, but the online community of Don Henley and Eagles fans is comprised of some of the greatest people on the planet. Just like Don, they are smart and funny. They have enormous heart and talent. They have your back when others don't. We have made so many friends and met so many generous, kind and amazing people in this community. Don (and the Eagles) is the tie that binds us and group of fellow fans has enriched our lives.
8. The whole package. Don is a very handsome man. That's all we'll say there.
So there you have it. Happy Birthday, Don. We look forward to hanging with you this weekend.
This was our attempt to explain why we are fans of Don Henley. Why are you?