Don Henley’s 10 Best Country Collaborations
Since rising to fame as a founder member of the Eagles in the early 1970s, Don Henley has become one of the most accomplished and celebrated artists in rock history. As lead vocalist on some of the band's most beloved hits, including "Desperado," "The Long Run" and "Hotel California," he cemented himself as a part of rock and roll history in it some of its most formative years through the 1970s.
When the Eagles broke up in 1980, Henley opted to build his own career as a solo artist. He scored a string of major hits, including "The Boys of Summer," "The End of the Innocence" and "All She Wants to Do Is Dance" among others.
In 1993, a tribute album entitled Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles was released, featuring covers of the band's most beloved songs from the biggest country stars of the era, including Trisha Yearwood, Brooks & Dunn, Tanya Tucker and Diamond Rio. Travis Tritt's cover of "Take It Easy" earned major success on the charts, and the song's video, which featured a rare appearance by all of the Eagles members, was often cited by the band as a catalyst to the band's reunion the following year.
When the Eagles weren't touring, Henley spent time on his own solo projects. His most recent record, 2015's Cass County, was packed with guest appearances from major country stars, and even an unexpected duet with The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger.
Following the death of Eagles member Glenn Frey at the age of 67 from complications of rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia in 2016, Henley stated that he didn't think the Eagles would ever play together again publicly as a band.
Just over a year later, the remaining members of the Eagles joined Vince Gill and Frey's son Deacon to resume touring. Gill has been open about his longtime love and admiration of the Eagles, even covering their track "I Can't Tell You Why" for the aforementioned tribute album Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles. The country star continues to tour as a member of the Eagles to this day.
Although the Eagles' impact on country music is immeasurable, this list will focus on Henley's individual work alongside some of the genre's biggest names.
Let's take a look at some of Don Henley's best country music collaborations.
"Walkaway Joe"with Trisha Yearwood
This massive hit for Trisha Yearwood in 1992 features background vocals from Don Henley. He also appears in the track's music video, along with accomplished actor Matthew McConaughey taking on the song's problematic lead character. The collaboration was born after Henley caught Yearwood performing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and was so impressed by her talents that he reached out, sparking a lasting friendship. They've kept a close creative relationship ever since, with Henley appearing on the title track of Yearwood's 2001 record Inside Out. In 2019, the pair reunited for “Love You Anyway,” the last track on her fifteenth studio album Every Girl.
"That Old Flame"with Martina McBride
This is the first of many tracks from Henley's 2015 project Cass County that you'll see on this list. The release marked his first solo album in 15 years and focused on his close creative relationships within country music. "That Old Flame" finds Henley and Martina McBride trying to bring back the spark that first ignited their long-running romance that eventually fizzled out.
"Sacrifice"with Vince Gill
Just months after Gill began touring with the Eagles, he collaborated with Henley on a cover of Elton John's 1989 ballad "Sacrifice." The track was recorded as a part of John's Restoration: Reimagining the Songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, one of two tribute albums released in 2018 that also feature covers from Chris Stapleton, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and Miranda Lambert.
"Bramble Rose"with Miranda Lambert and Mick Jagger
The second entry from Cass County's track listing, "Bramble Rose" was first cut by Tift Merritt as the title track of her 2002 debut album. The song gets an entirely new life on Henley's record, thanks to the vocal stylings of Miranda Lambert and Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger. The trio trade off verses through the story-song before supplying beautiful harmonies on every chorus.
"The Cost of Living"with Merle Haggard
One of the standout tracks on Cass County, "The Cost of Living" is a haunting, reflective examination on life and savoring every moment before it flies away. It's an especially moving listen as it now stands as one of the last collaborations Merle Haggard would record before his death just a year later, on April 6, 2016. Although the track isn't currently available on YouTube, you can listen to it via a physical copy of Cass County or stream it on Spotify, Apple Music or Tidal.
"Love Her Like She's Leavin'"with Brad Paisley
Featured on his 2011 album This Is Country Music, Brad Paisley teamed up with Henley for the slice of life track "Love Her Like She's Leavin'." The tune transports the listener to a wedding, where a wise uncle shares the secret to keeping love alive, through both the good times and bad.
"When I Stop Dreaming"with Dolly Parton
Country icon Dolly Parton joined Henley for this achingly beautiful cut from Cass County. The pair put their own mark on "When I Stop Dreaming," a country classic that was originally recorded by the Louvin Brothers and later covered by Tammy Wynette and George Jones, Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash and many others.
"More Life"with Randy Travis
Henley's duet with Randy Travis was recorded as a part of an album celebrating the 25th anniversary of Storms of Life, Travis' landmark 1986 debut album. Henley only supplies harmonies on the track, allowing Travis' heartfelt vocals to stay in the spotlight. The song has taken on a new life in recent years following the 2013 stroke that nearly killed Travis and left a lasting impact on his health. "More Life" is also the title of an upcoming documentary on Travis, which is set for release later this year.
"Break Each Other's Hearts Again"with Reba McEntire
Reba McEntire's 2007 LP Duets is exactly what it's advertised as, but one of its best collaborations is her duet with Henley. "Break Each Other's Hearts Again" is all about longing for your ex-lover and asking for one more night together to rekindle that lost magic.
"Hasten Down The Wind"with Linda Ronstadt
The title track of Linda Ronstadt's seventh studio album, "Hasten Down The Wind" was originally written by Warren Zevon and released in 1976. Lyrically, the song presents a couple trying to decide if their relationship can stay afloat or if the obvious disconnect between the two is too great. This duet wasn't the first time the two talents worked together; both Henley and Glenn Frey played in Ronstadt's band before the pair went on to form the Eagles in 1971.