Who Wrote “Hotel California?”

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

On a dark desert highway / Cool wind in my hair / Warm smell of colitas / Rising up through the air

Few opening lines set the scene like “Hotel California.” The track is as illusionary as the titular hotel the Eagles can’t seem to escape with a winding melody that treks on for more than six minutes.

“Hotel California” has allowed the West Coast rockers’ name to endure for decades. It’s almost second nature to sing along to this song when it comes on and many guitar players wouldn’t have the chops they do now if it weren’t for trying to mimic Don Felder/Joe Walsh’s iconic solo.

We all know the lyrics, but do you know who penned them? Find out the answer below.

Who Wrote “Hotel California”

The late, great Glenn Frey is the mastermind behind these lyrics alongside fellow band members Felder and Don Henley.

Though the song has a very clear storyline throughout, there have been many theories about the symbolism behind the lyrics. The band members have cleared up those theories in multiple interviews, explaining that the song is actually a commentary on hedonism and self-indulgence in America.

“It’s basically a song about the dark underbelly of the American dream and about excess in America, which is something we knew a lot about,” Henley said in a 2002 interview with “60 Minutes.”

“We were all middle-class kids from the Midwest,” he further explained in 2005. “‘Hotel California’ was our interpretation of the high life in L.A.”

According to journalist and director Cameron Crowe, “Hotel California” was a secondary title.

In “Conversations with Don Henley and Glenn Frey,” featured in the liner notes of the Eagles compilation album The Very Best Of, the song was originally going to be titled “Mexican Reggae.” Doesn’t have quite the same ring, does it?

Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place (such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the Hotel California
Any time of year (any time of year)
You can find it here

Her mind is Tiffany-twisted
She got the Mercedes Benz
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys
That she calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard
Sweet summer sweat
Some dance to remember
Some dance to forget

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Performance

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame named “Hotel California” one of the songs that shaped rock and roll. When the Eagles were inducted into the Hall in 1998, all seven former and present members performed the song together on stage.

“A kid first picks up a guitar or a drumstick, you know it’s not really to be famous,” Henley said during their induction. “That kid wants to fit in somewhere, and he wants to be accepted…so I like to think of this award as something that is acknowledging us not for being famous, but for doing the work.” Check out the performance below.

Photo: Hotel California, The Eagles, cropped album art

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