Here’s Why Don Henley Would Prefer People to Not Label the Eagles as “Country Rock”

The music industry is obsessed with labels. When a new artist launches into an unsuspecting listening world, the powers that be immediately try and shove them into neat little boxes. While that might work for some musicians, it fails to encapsulate the diversity of others. At least, that is the opinion of Don Henley.

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Many have tried to describe the Eagles’ colorful sound in one word. That word often ends up somewhere in the realm of “country rock,” given the bands obvious affinity for electric guitars and their occasional affinity for the acoustic.

[RELATED: The Story Behind the Eagles Song Don Henley Called “Corny”]

If we were reaching for an easy descriptor, we might think “country rock” to be apt as well. But, in Henley’s opinion, it’s a black-and-white term that ignores the gray tones in the Eagles’ work.

“Even now, the Eagles are thought of as a country-rock band,” Henley said in the liner notes to The Very Best of the Eagles. “The music industry and the media saddled us with that label at the very beginning, and no matter how diverse our musical palate, it has been impossible to shake that stereotype.”

Instead of country rock, Henley would prefer another, more overarching label: American. “At the end of the day, we’re an American band,” Henley continued in the liner notes. “We’re a musical mutt with influences from every genre of American popular music.”

To help argue Henley’s case, we only have to look back at the Eagles’ discography. There’s Desperado, which leans hard into a cowboy theme and along with it brings some distinct country flavors. Then there’s Eagles, which houses most of the band’s breezy, California–driving tunes. Then there’s Hotel California which is comprised of anthems and punchy ballads.

While labels aren’t always important, given the Eagles’ myriad sound, Henley might be justified in his criticism of “country rock.”

(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

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