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EAGLES - Life Beyond the Fast Lane by Kaya Morgan

It may seem like eons since the pre-Eagles performances at the Troubadour in Hollywood, but with over 120 million albums sold worldwide and an awe-inspiring collection of accolades – including five Grammy Awards, #1 singles and LPs like Greatest Hits 1971-1975 (the best selling album of all time) and the Eagles' induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – it is clear fans have never forgotten their unique combination of ringing guitars, rhythmic percussion and pitch-perfect harmonies.

Now, with the release of their DVD, Farewell 1 Tour: Live from Melbourne , filled with rare behind-the-scenes footage and interviews, fans can see Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmit perform favorites from the Eagles' 30-year career including “Hotel California,” “Desperado,” “Take It To The Limit,” and “Life In The Fast Lane,” as often as they want.

While on their whirlwind Farewell 1 Tour, we spoke with Don Henley about the band's past and future and what they've learned along the way.

In 2005, the Eagles are bigger than ever. Did you ever think you would be back at the top of the charts with Billboard's #1 Top DVD Music Video, #1 Top Music Video, #1 Comprehensive Music Video, and one of the highest-rated NBC Primetime Specials?

I don't believe that any of us ever thought that we would still be doing this at this point in our lives, or that it would still be this big.

How do your fans differ now compared to when you started?

Our fans, like ourselves, are older – and hopefully wiser – but they can still get up and get rowdy toward the end of a concert. It's wonderful. It is also gratifying to see a lot of younger faces in the crowd, everything from little kids to teens to 20-somethings scattered among the baby boomers. We like to think that our music knows no generation. We tried to build in universal themes early on, so I guess it's still working.

The group has had so many hits. Is there a favorite you all can agree on?

When you've played these songs as many times as we have, there really is no such thing as a “favorite.” Some of the songs have aged better than others, and I think it's obvious which ones those are.

Do you remember the moment when you thought, “We've made it?”

I don't remember the exact date, but it was sometime in the mid-70s, and we were doing our first “Day on the Green” concert at the stadium in Oakland, California. It was an annual production by Bill Graham. I remember looking out at that sea of humanity and thinking, “Well, I guess this is about as big as it gets.” Of course, I was wrong. It got bigger and it continues today.

Still at the top of your game, do you feel the pressure to keep achieving the same level of success?

At this stage, I don't think any of us feel a whole lot of pressure to stay on top – which is precisely why we can. In the early days, we thrived on pressure, but now we're allergic to it.

Does the songwriting process differ today than in the earlier days?

Our songwriting processes haven't changed significantly since 1971. The changes that have occurred are primarily due to technology. Sometimes, songwriting is not quite as organic as it was in the beginning, but as long as the end result is the same, it doesn't really matter how you get there. We've always had multiple ways of getting songs written.

Who are your favorite musicians?

Everybody in the group has a pretty wide spectrum when it comes to influences and favorites. Speaking just for myself, my tastes run from Chopin to Randy Newman; Robert Johnson to Ray Charles; Merle Haggard to the Beatles; Billie Holiday to Bonnie Raitt to Joni Mitchell. I'm all over the musical map, but if something is good, it's good.

Since you're performing at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, we'd like to talk about Las Vegas for a few minutes: What was your favorite time in Las Vegas ?

I don't remember. That's the way it's supposed to be, isn't it?

Aside from performing, what are your favorite things to do in Vegas?

I like to do a little gaming, now and then, or perhaps take in a show or have a fine meal. I also like to get out into the desert occasionally. Lake Mead is beautiful.

Do you have a favorite restaurant or nightclub you like to frequent when you're in town?

I like Nobu, Prime Steakhouse and Emeril's place. I'm also very glad there's an In-N-Out Burger in Las Vegas. It's one of the few that exists outside of California.

Do you ever come to Vegas just for fun?

I usually come to Vegas to work, but I have gone a few times in the past just for fun.

How is life different on the road today?

Life on the road today is very different from how it was in the old days. These days, it's very organized and very professional. I spend most of my down time working on the computer or on the phone with my assistant. I also work out almost every day. Nobody in the Eagles is interested in partying anymore. We do a show that's almost three hours long and our goal is to make sure that every performance is the best it can be. At this age, one has to have his priorities straight.

What are your favorite things about achieving icon status and what are the drawbacks?

Fame has its price. On the one hand, it's great to be internationally known and recognized in one's profession. On the other hand, there is a loss of privacy and even safety that is sometimes disturbing. We're all at a place in our lives where we are pretty comfortable with our fame, and we know how to deal with both the positives and negatives. One of the real positives is that we can achieve so much in the realm of charity. Whether it be environmental, medical, educational, or just generally civic, we can help to make good things happen.

Aside from your musical careers, what other things are you most proud of?

Again, I am gratified by the contributions we have been able to make to various environmental, medical, educational, and even political efforts. I've always said that I think it's the duty… and the privilege, really… of every citizen to give something back to the community, whether it be local, national or global. I have the Walden Woods Project, that I founded in 1990, and the Caddo Lake Institute. Those are my babies. The other band members have their own things and they're all worthwhile.

Does the band have any “rules to live by” or “pearls of wisdom” gleaned over the years?

“No good deed goes unpunished.”

With all your success and experience in the business, what advice would you give an up-and-coming musician?

Find a good manager – which is really hard to do – and get a good lawyer – several, if necessary.

Is there any misunderstood idea/impression about you (or the group) that you would like to set straight?

From the very beginning, we got saddled with a lot of labels, clichés and stereotypes that are not accurate. The words “mellow” and “laid back” come to mind. Our music was categorized with the catchall “country rock,” although there are obvious elements of bluegrass, R&B, soul, gospel, folk, and even jazz running all through our material. So-called “music journalists” like to put things in little boxes and do comparative analysis because the comparison and cliché makes it easier for them. They don't have to listen closely to the material or put a lot of thought into what they are writing. As I've said before, the Eagles are a musical mutt, and mutts are smarter and more durable than purebreds.

There's always lingering talk of a new Eagles album – a tantalizing prospect for your fans. What are the chances?

I'd say the chances are about 50-50 – depending on the day, of course.

If we could put your basic philosophy in a nutshell, what would it be?

Hard work and perseverance – as well as mental flexibility – are just as important as talent. We work very hard in this group and we always have. My own personal philosophy echoes the sentiments of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

People might be surprised to know what about you?

I'm an avid gardener and I'm a very good cook – I think.

Since this is the Farewell I Tour, can your fans look forward to a few more?

Again, it just depends on the day. Some days, it appears like the future is unlimited. Other days, it looks like we're almost done.

What kind of life do you look forward to after The Eagles?

Well, I still owe Warner Bros. two albums under my solo contract, so I still have work to do even if the Eagles vaporize tomorrow. Being a member of the Eagles has been a major part of my life and I am truly grateful, as I think we all are, for the experience. Being in the Eagles has been a magic carpet ride for all of us that has taken us all over the world and back, but it has been all-consuming at times. Now, each of us has a family and our priorities are shifting. There are so many more things that I want to do in my life – things that don't necessarily involve the Eagles. But, again, the Eagles have been the springboard – the means to open a lot of doors that would otherwise have been closed. The one thing I know for sure is that I'm going to be busy for years to come – with family, music, environmental, and political work and a host of other things. So much to do, so little time.

More stories by journalist, Kaya Morgan, can be found by clicking the link. Contact us for reprint rights as most articles are available.

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