The End of the Innocence (song)

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"The End of the Innocence"
Single by Don Henley
from the album The End of the Innocence
Released June 1, 1989
Format CD
Recorded 1989
Genre Soft rock
Length 5:16
Label Geffen
Writer(s) Don Henley
Bruce Hornsby
Producer(s) Don Henley
Bruce Hornsby
Don Henley singles chronology
"Sunset Grill"
"The End of the Innocence"
"I Will Not Go Quietly"
Music sample

"The End of the Innocence" is the lead single and title track from Don Henley's third solo studio album, The End of the Innocence, in 1989. The song was written by Bruce Hornsby, with lyrics added by Henley, and both perform the song live in their respective concerts. The Henley version became his fifth solo top ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100, more than any of the other Eagles members. "The End of the Innocence" peaked at number eight on the Hot 100 and at number two on Hot Adult Contemporary chart.[1] It also became his fourth number-one single on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. The song features Wayne Shorter on saxophone.

Background and content[edit]

Henley's lyrics take the form of a personal remembrance related to a close friend or companion, and evoke a powerful sense of nostalgia for the lost innocence of childhood and an earlier time. The reflections and the emotional responses that result represent the end of the innocence of the baby boomer generation, which for some was coupled with a perception of nihilism, consumerism and militarism during the then-current Reagan administration. Even as they yearn for the simplicity and values of the past, and the uncorrupted people they used to be, the song sees these characters and this generation coming to terms with the responsibilities and challenges facing Americans entering middle-age in the 1980s.

There are two political comments in the video. At the line "armchair warriors often fail" it shows a TV set showing scenes of the congressional testimony of Oliver North. At the line "they're beating plowshares into swords, for the tired old man that we elected king", it shows a series of posters of President Ronald Reagan. After Reagan had gone out of office, Bruce Hornsby began singing his version with the line "for the tired old man that is no longer king".

Also in the video, there are shots of Henley singing in front of the Texas School Book Depository in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, TX. To Henley, this is where the "End of the Innocence" can be found. A portion of the video was also filmed in the town of Waxahachie, Texas just south of Dallas at the Historic Rogers Hotel, where Bonnie & Clyde stayed and where the movies Places in the Heart and Tender Mercies were filmed.

Music video[edit]

The black and white music video for the song was directed by future film director David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club) and earned Henley an MTV Video Music Award for Best Male Video in 1990.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1989) Peak
Canadian RPM Top Singles 3
Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary 3
UK Singles Chart 48
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 8
U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary Tracks 2
U.S. Billboard Album Rock Tracks 1


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 114.