I Can't Tell You Why

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"I Can't Tell You Why"
Single by Eagles
from the album The Long Run
B-side "The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks"
Released February 8, 1980
Format 7"
Genre Blue-eyed soul[1]
Length 4:30 (7")
4:56 (LP)
Label Asylum Records
Writer(s) Timothy B. Schmit, Glenn Frey, Don Henley
Producer(s) Bill Szymczyk
Eagles singles chronology
"The Long Run"
"I Can't Tell You Why"
"Seven Bridges Road"

"I Can't Tell You Why" is a song by the American rock band Eagles which appeared on their 1979 album The Long Run. The song was written by band members Timothy B. Schmit, Glenn Frey, and Don Henley. Recorded in March 1978, it was the first song finished for the album and the first Eagles song to feature Schmit on lead vocals.[2] The studio version became a Billboard Top 10 hit in April 1980, reaching number 8 on the Hot 100 and number 3 on the Adult Contemporary chart.[3] As of 2016, it is their last Top Ten hit on the Hot 100. The original key of the song is D major.


Timothy B. Schmit came up with the song title and composed the nucleus of "I Can't Tell You Why", which he then presented to Glenn Frey and Don Henley and they completed the song together. According to Henley, the song was influenced by the songs of Al Green and that Glenn Frey, an R&B fan as he came from Detroit and grew up with the music, was responsible for the R&B feel of the song. Henley described "I Can't Tell You Why" as "straight Al Green".[4] Frey said to Schmit: "You could sing like Smokey Robinson. Let’s not do a Richie Furay, Poco-sounding song. Let’s do an R&B song."[5]

Schmit describes the song as "loosely based on my own experiences".[6] Schmit said: "I had some writing sessions with Don and Glenn and I threw out a bunch of my ideas and that one [for "I Can't Tell You Why"] stuck. I had [composed] a pretty good part of it, not a huge part but enough for them to think 'That could be good' and go with it. So Don, Glenn and I finished it over a few all night sessions."[7] "When it was being developed in the studio...I knew it was a great song. I [thought] 'Yes! This is an amazing debut for me.' When we finally mixed it, we had a little listening party at the studio. As people were hearing it, Don turned to me and said, 'There's your first hit.'"[8]

Schmit sang the lead vocals on the song, with Frey and Henley singing counterpoint. Schmit also played the bass on the track, which has the distinctive bass riff believed by Schmit to have been devised by Frey.[7] According to Henley, Frey came up the counterpart on the song, and played the guitar solo on the song.[5]

In 1980 the band promoted the song with a music video which featured Schmit on bass guitar accompanied by Frey on the electric piano, although Frey recorded the guitar solos as it is printed on the LP inside sleeve (Joe Walsh played all the keyboard parts on the actual studio recording), with Henley on the drums, Don Felder on the electric guitar, Joe Walsh on the organ and Walsh's touring sideman Joe Vitale on synthesizer. Live versions of the song were released in the 1980 album Eagles Live and 1994's Hell Freezes Over.

Schmit also performed "I Can't Tell You Why" while on tour as a member of Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band in 1992. Their performance of the song was included on the 1993 live album Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band Volume 2: Live from Montreux.

Track listing[edit]

  • 7" single (45-1965/AS 12.418/K 12418/E-46608)[9]
Side A
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "I Can't Tell You Why"   Frey, Henley, Schmit 4:30
Side B
No. Title Writer(s) Length
2. "The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks"   Frey, Henley 2:20
  • 7" promo (E-46608)[9]
Side A
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "I Can't Tell You Why" (Mono) Frey, Henley, Schmit 4:30
Side B
No. Title Writer(s) Length
2. "I Can't Tell You Why" (Stereo) Frey, Henley, Schmit 4:30



  • Glenn Frey: Lead Guitar, Backing vocals
  • Don Felder: Rhythm guitar
  • Don Henley: Drums, Backing vocals
  • Timothy B. Schmit: Bass guitar, Lead vocals
  • Joe Walsh: Hammond organ, Fender Rhodes electric piano, String synthesizer (Walsh played all keyboard parts on the studio recording.)

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1979) Peak
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[13] 5
Canada Adult Contemporary (RPM)[14] 2
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[15] 49
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[16] 11
US Billboard Hot 100[17] 8
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[18] 3


External links[edit]