One of the greatest voices of the 20th century, the work Don Henley produced alongside The Eagles is wildly underrated in rock circles. Instead, Henley’s authentic admirers are littered between soft rock and country lovers. Fitting, it would seem, as below, we have the singer’s favourite country songs of all time, and it reads like a true aficionado’s.
It’s not often you get a drummer who also takes on the responsibility of lead vocals, though the Eagles’ Don Henley is a man who has done just that. There must be something about a singing drummer that makes their trade so lucrative; after Ringo Starr, Phil Collins and Dave Grohl – who, it must be noted, all also sing – Henley is the fourth wealthiest drummer in the world with an estimated fortune of $200million, but that doesn’t mean his heart is drenched in the mud of America’s heartland.
Speaking to the BBC in 2019, Henley showcased just how much he loved country music by picking out his favourite songs from the genre. It’s a candid look at Henley’s love for the genre and is finished below with a perfect playlist. He chooses some of the best songs of the genre.
One track wasn’t just a beautiful track for Henley, but it was also better than The Beatles: “Buck Owens was actually born in my home state of Texas in a small town called Sherman, Texas. He is primarily known and associated with the Bakersfield sound, Bakersfield, California. But he was born in Texas. One of his biggest hits was a song called ‘Act Naturally’ that was actually covered by The Beatles. Ringo Starr sang that song, and you know, that was a good version. But Buck’s version is my favourite.”
One song that is perhaps a little less firmly placed in the country category is ‘Can’t Stop loving you’ from Ray Charles, about which Henley says: “This man is my favourite singer of all time, and he has never been known necessarily as a country artist but he did a groundbreaking album back in the 1960s called Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. That album changed my life. I wore out at least two vinyl copies of it. It had some wonderful songs on it. This song has been recorded by a number of country artists, but this is, in my opinion, the definitive version of this song.”
There is, of course, room on the list for Patsy Cline, a supremely underrated singer in modern times, who is perhaps the greatest the genre has ever produced. Cline sadly passed away at the tender age of 30, and Henley believes we were robbed of her precious talent: “Patsy Cline in many circles is regarded as one of the finest Country singers ever to come down the pike, and I would agree with that. She, unfortunately, passed away in a plane crash much too soon in her life and who knows what she would have gone on to accomplish. But she did leave a wonderful legacy, including this wonderful song that was written by Mr Willie Nelson.”
Another favourite vocalist of Henley is Emmylou Harris; picking her song ‘Together Again’, Henley notes: “Emmylou Harris has one of my favourite voices in Country music or in any genre of music. I’ve had the pleasure of working with her a number of times. We’ve done a few concerts together, we’ve harmonized together. It’s actually a Buck Owens song, first done by Buck but I love Emmylou’s version of it.”
Completing Henley’s list is the iconic Glen Campbell, and his song ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’, Henley said of the track: “This gentleman I had the pleasure of meeting only once. We had a wonderful evening together talking about music and the recording industry many, many years ago. He has one of the greatest voices in music. He is also a very underappreciated musician. One of the best guitar players ever to emerge on the American music scene. He played on a lot of very famous records that people probably aren’t aware of.”
You can find the full list of Henley’s favourite country songs below, complete with a perfect playlist.
Don Henley’s favourite country songs:
- ‘Act Naturally’ – Buck Owens
- ‘Silver Wings’ – Merle Haggard
- ‘If I Had Wings’ – Matraca Berg
- ‘Dreaming Fields’ – Trisha Yearwood
- ‘Can’t Stop Loving You’ – Ray Charles
- ‘Crazy’ – Patsy Cline
- ‘Always On My Mind’ – Willie Nelson
- ‘Good Times Ain’t What They Used To Be’ – Jamey Johnson
- ‘Together Again’ – Emmylou Harris
- ‘Silver Threads & Golden Needles’ – Linda Ronstadt
- ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’ – Glen Campbell