Desperado (song)

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This article is about the Eagles song. For other songs with the same title, see Desperado.
Song by Eagles from the album Desperado
Released April 17, 1973
Recorded Early 1973
Genre Soft rock[1]
Length 3:33
Label Asylum
Writer Glenn Frey and Don Henley
Producer Glyn Johns
Desperado track listing
"Tequila Sunrise"
"Certain Kind of Fool"
Music sample

"Desperado" is a ballad by the Eagles, an American rock band, written by group members Glenn Frey and Don Henley, and sung by Henley. It first appeared on the 1973 album Desperado, and has later appeared on numerous compilation albums. Although "Desperado" was not issued as a single, it would become one of the Eagles' best known songs; the song was ranked No. 494 on Rolling Stone's 2004 list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[2] Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.[3]


According to Don Henley, the song was based on something he wrote in 1968 with a different title, but the same melody and chords. In 1972, about a day or two after they returned from London where they recorded their first album Eagles, Glenn Frey went to his place to write songs. Henley played him his unfinished tune and said: "When I play it and sing it, I think of Ray Charles — Ray Charles and Stephen Foster. It’s really a Southern gothic thing, but we can easily make it more Western."[4] The song Henley played had lyrics about a friend of his named Leo, which began "Leo, my God, why don’t you come to your senses, You’ve been out ridin' fences for so long now." Jackson Browne had suggested a Western theme for the song, and Frey then helped with the lyrics and gave it structure, and the song became "Desperado". Henley said of the writing of "Desperado" with Frey: "And that was the beginning of our songwriting partnership ... that’s when we became a team."[4]

The song was recorded at Island Studios in London, with musicians from the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jim Ed Norman, Henley's friend from his early band Shiloh, who wrote and arranged the strings for the song.[5][6] Henley sang the lead vocal on the song, but would later express regret that he did not sing as well as he could.[7] Henley said of the recording: "I was so intimidated that I didn't sing my best. Our producer Glyn Johns, who is still a friend of mine, I think, wanted to get the album done quickly and economically, and he didn't let me do many takes. I wish I could have done that song again."[8]

"Desperado" was ranked No. 494 on Rolling Stone's 2004 list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[2] although it was moved out of Top 500 in the 2010 revision of the list after newer songs were added to the list.[9] The song never charted on Billboard until the death of Glenn Frey when it reached No. 20 on the Rock Digital Songs chart.[10]


Cover versions[edit]

Charted versions[edit]

Other versions[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

The Eagles' version of the song was featured in the Seinfeld episode "The Checks" when Elaine's boyfriend was deeply moved when it came on the radio.[8]


  1. ^ Horn, David; Shepherd, John, eds. (2012). Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World. 8 – Genres: North America. Continuum. p. 174. ISBN 978-1-4411-6078-2. 
  2. ^ a b "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on December 17, 2006. 
  3. ^ Western Writers of America (2010). "The Top 100 Western Songs". American Cowboy. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Cameron Crowe (August 2003). "Conversations With Don Henley and Glenn Frey". The Uncool. 
  5. ^ Graeme Thomson (May 21, 2014). "The Eagles on Desperado: "We were quite taken with the idea of being outlaws..."". Uncut. 
  6. ^ Paul Verna (July 10, 1993). "Eagles Songs Get Country Coverage". Billboard. 
  7. ^ Bob Doeschuk (September 21, 2015). "10 Things We Learned From Billy Joel's Interview With Don Henley". Rolling Stone. 
  8. ^ a b c "Desperado by Eagles". Song Facts. 
  9. ^ "Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". 
  10. ^ "Rock Digital Songs". Billboard. February 6, 2016. 
  11. ^ "Johnny Rodriguez: Awards". AllMusic. 
  12. ^ "Country Playlist: Volume 27, No. 1" (PDF). RPM. Library and Archives Canada. April 2, 1977. 
  13. ^ "Hot Country Songs: November 27, 1993". Billboard. 
  14. ^ "Country Tracks: Volume 58, No. 24" (PDF). RPM. Library and Archives Canada. December 25, 1993. 
  15. ^ Sophie Schillaci (December 30, 2015). "Miranda Lambert Covers The Eagles' 'Desperado' In Show-Stopping Kennedy Center Honors Performance". Entertainment Tonight.