6 Eagles Tracks That Helped Define Country Rock

The Eagles were one of the earliest groups to blur the lines between rock and country, creating the genre known as, well, country rock! Much of this came down to the talents of songwriting partners Don Henley and Glenn Frey. Whether they were writing an original song or reworking an old one with country rock vibes, the Eagles undeniably impacted country, rock, and country rock music, as shown by these tracks.

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1. “Midnight Flyer” (1974)

The Eagles covered Paul Craft’s “Midnight Flyer” in 1974, a rare instance of the band exploring a piece that was pure bluegrass. True to their nature, however, they gave it an update that brought it to the line between country and rock music. The energetic song features a banjo track, which the Eagles underscored with electric guitars and tight harmonies. “Midnight Flyer” might have been a simple country track when it started, but the Eagles made it something unique for its time.

2. “New Kid in Town” (1976)

“New Kid in Town” has sometimes been overshadowed by the other hits on the Hotel California album it appears on (“Hotel California,” for example). But after its release, it was a major hit, peaking at No. 1 on the pop charts and scoring the band a Grammy Award for Best Vocal Arrangement for Two or More Vocals.

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“New Kid” was a standout on the album for its unique instrumentation. These days it may be unofficially categorized as “yacht rock,” but the track had undeniable hints of country music and placed on the country charts in both the U.S. and Canada. Maybe its ambiguity lies in its quiet strength, which fit in more than one genre.

3. “Lyin’ Eyes” (1976)

While most of the Eagles’ “country” songs expertly straddled the line between country and rock, “Lyin’ Eyes” would have been right at home in a western saloon. It incorporates acoustic guitars, mandolin, and vocals that hint at a southern twang. The track climbed higher on the country charts than any other Eagles song, and hit No. 8 on the Billboard Hot Country charts. “Lyin’ Eyes” also scored the band a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo, Group, or Chorus, proving yet again how delicately they toed the line between genres.

4. “Desperado” (1973)

“Desperado” ranks as one of the best Eagles songs, and one of the most celebrated songs in the country rock genre, if not in rock and roll history. Henley began writing it in the 1960s, basing it on classic American folk music. His original version was much more purely country, but the song morphed into a country rock track during rewrites with Frey. Henley later cited “Desperado” as the beginning of his songwriting partnership with Frey, which would continue for decades. Henley provided lead vocals on the track, earning praise for his gravelly, distinctive singing.

5. “Heartache Tonight” (1979)

The Eagles wrote this 1979 hit with J.D. Souther during a jam session. It was intended to be more rock-centered, so it was a surprise when the track turned into another country-fueled tune. It was a fascinating experiment in tight, country-style harmonies with late-’70s rock elements, making for an upbeat and catchy song. “Heartache Tonight” climbed to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned the band another Grammy Award.

6. “Take It Easy” (1972)

“Take It Easy” wasn’t originally an Eagles song—in fact, it had already been recorded by longtime friend of the band Jackson Browne. Browne’s version didn’t make much of a dent, so Henley and Frey gave it an Eagles-style makeover. They included it on their debut album, an early example of their shared talent in reworking music to appeal to a broad audience. Their version was slowed down, with a distinctive banjo part that made the song go from pleasant ditty to making history.

Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns

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