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Don Henley is a musician who was a founding member of the Eagles and later went on to great solo success with such songs as "Boys of Summer."
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Don Henley’s band the Eagles had two top 10 singles—"Take It Easy" and "Witchy Woman"—with their first album. The Eagles then became one of the most popular bands of the 1970s. Their next three albums—Desperado, On the Border, and One of These Nights—were all huge hits. Henley went on to a huge solo career after the Eagles broke up, with singles such as “Dirty Laundry” and “Boys of Summer.”
"The Beatles were the soundtrack to my life. When the Beatles came along, life changed, the planets all shifted somehow."
Singer, songwriter, musician and activist Don Henley was born on July 22, 1947 in Gilmer, Texas. He was raised in Linden—a small, dusty town near the Arkansas and Louisiana border with a population of only 2,400. His father, C.J. Henley, was a World War II veteran who owned an auto parts store, and his mother, Hughlene McWhorter, was a teacher. Henley was exposed to music from a very young age.
"I had piano lessons when I was kid," he recalls. "My father loved music; my mother loved music. They always had records on in the house." Growing up in Texas in the 1950s, Henley was exposed to a diverse and eclectic mix of musical genres: "all the World War II and postwar big band stuff. There was an old black lady who worked for my grandfather who was always singing spirituals, what they called 'negro spirituals' back then. My grandmother was always singing hymns. My father also listened to country music on the radio."
Despite this wide exposure to music as a child, Henley's decision to pursue music seriously came largely as an accident. As a high school student, having long since given up on his piano lessons, Henley tried out for the football team. After a brief and disastrous stint on the football field, Henley instead joined the marching band under the encouragement of childhood friend Richard Bowden, whose father had a Dixieland band. Henley proved a natural at the drums.
"I was always beating out a rhythm on my schoolbooks and on the dashboard of the car," he recalls. "It used to drive people nuts, but the drums sort of came naturally to me." In 1962, at the age of 15, Henley earned a spot in his friend Richard's band playing mostly Dixieland and rock 'n' roll instrumentals.
Like so many other people around the world, Henley found his musical tastes entirely transformed by the emergence of The Beatles in the 1960s. "The Beatles were the soundtrack to my life," he recalls. "When The Beatles came along, life changed, the planets all shifted somehow—that's when I became very serious about doing music as a profession. Before, it had just been for a laugh." Henley's band (initially named The Four Speeds and later renamed Felicity, and then Shiloh) chose him as its lead singer. He was also the band's primary songwriter, and one of his compositions—a tune called "Hurtin'"—was even produced and recorded by a local record company.
Henley graduated from high school in 1965 and enrolled at nearby Stephen F. Austin University. A year later, he transferred to North Texas State University, where he majored in English literature and took especially to the works of Emerson and Thoreau.
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