I Can't Tell You Why

Page semi-protected
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"I Can't Tell You Why"
Single by Eagles
from the album The Long Run
B-side"The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks"
ReleasedFebruary 8, 1980
RecordedMarch 1978
GenreBlue-eyed soul,[1] rock[2]
Length4:30 (7")
4:56 (LP)
LabelAsylum Records
Songwriter(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 that appeared on their 1979 album The Long Run. It 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.[3] Released as a single in February 1980, it became a Billboard top 10 hit in April, reaching number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 and number three on the Adult Contemporary chart.[4] It was the group's last top ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100.


Timothy B. Schmit provided 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. Henley described the finished song as "straight Al Green" and said that Frey, an R&B fan from Detroit, was responsible for the R&B feel of the song.[5] 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."[6]

Schmit describes the song as "loosely based on my own experiences."[7] 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."[8] He also said, "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.'"[9]

Schmit sang the lead vocals, with Frey and Henley singing counterpoint. Schmit also played the bass on the track, which has a distinctive riff believed by Schmit to have been devised by Frey.[8] According to Henley, Frey wrote the counterpoint part.[6]

In 1980, the band promoted the song with a music video featuring Schmit on bass guitar accompanied by Frey on the electric piano, although Frey recorded the guitar solos on the recording, with Henley on drums, Don Felder on electric guitar, Joe Walsh on organ and Walsh's touring sideman Joe Vitale on ARP string synthesizer. Live versions of the song were released on 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.


Cash Box said that "Schmit’s aching, near-falsetto vocal here adds immeasurable depth to the haunting quality of this love song, with a tastefully sparse instrumental."[10] Record World said that "Tim Schmidt, the newest Eagle, lends his sweet falsetto and writing talents to this pretty love ballad."[11]

In 2017, Billboard ranked the song number six on its list of the 15 greatest Eagles songs,[12] In 2019, Rolling Stone ranked the song number 11 on its list of the 40 greatest Eagles songs.[13] Ultimate Classic Rock critic Sterling Whitaker rated it as the Eagles 5th most underrated song, praising Schmit's "beautiful falsetto" and Frey's "melodic" guitar solo.[14]

Track listing

  • 7" single (45-1965/AS 12.418/K 12418/E-46608)[15]
Side A
1."I Can't Tell You Why"Frey, Henley, Schmit4:30
Side B
2."The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks"Frey, Henley2:20
  • 7" promo (E-46608)[15]
Side A
1."I Can't Tell You Why" (Mono)Frey, Henley, Schmit4:30
Side B
2."I Can't Tell You Why" (Stereo)Frey, Henley, Schmit4:30



Chart performance


  1. ^ "0/1: 5 essential Eagles albums- 'Hotel to 'Border'". AZCentral.
  2. ^ "The Eagles - and fans - take it to the limit". The Globe and Mail. May 11, 2010.
  3. ^ Ruhlmann, William. The Long Run at AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-10-22.
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–2001. Record Research. p. 84. ISBN 0898201497.
  5. ^ Glazer, Mitchell (July 1983). "Don Henley Musician Interview". Musician. Archived from the original on February 22, 2016. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  6. ^ a b Crowe, Cameron (August 2003). "Conversations With Don Henley and Glenn Frey". The Uncool.
  7. ^ "Timothy B. Schmit of the Eagles". SongFacts.com. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
  8. ^ a b "The Eagles Timothy B. Schmit talks about The Long Run, his solo career & life as an Eagle". LegendaryRockInterviews.com. May 11, 2012. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
  9. ^ "Interview: Timothy B. Schmit on playing with The Eagles, solo touring". MusicRadar.com. November 15, 2011. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
  10. ^ "CashBox Singles Reviews" (PDF). Cash Box. February 16, 1980. p. 18. Retrieved January 1, 2022.
  11. ^ "Hits of the Week" (PDF). Record World. February 16, 1980. p. 1. Retrieved February 16, 2023.
  12. ^ Graff, Gary (October 17, 2017). "The Eagles' 15 Best Songs: Critic's Picks". Billboard. Retrieved April 8, 2022.
  13. ^ "The 40 Greatest Eagles Songs". Rolling Stone. September 22, 2019. Retrieved April 8, 2022.
  14. ^ Whitaker, Sterling (January 18, 2016). "Top 10 Underrated Eagles Songs". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved January 9, 2023.
  15. ^ a b "I Can't Tell You Why" at Discogs (list of releases)
  16. ^ The Very Best of Howard Hewett at AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-02-25.
  17. ^ Whitaker, Sterling (November 6, 2020). "Remember When Vince Gill Covered the Eagles?". Taste of Country.
  18. ^ Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles at AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-10-22.
  19. ^ From the Bottom Up at AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-10-22.
  20. ^ "Lazlo Bane's Guilty Pleasures". cdbaby.com. Retrieved January 10, 2017.
  21. ^ "Diana Krall: I Can't Tell You Why". Billboard Smooth Jazz Songs - Billboard.com. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  22. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 0153a." RPM. Library and Archives Canada.
  23. ^ "Top RPM Adult Contemporary: Issue 4712." RPM. Library and Archives Canada.
  24. ^ "Eagles – I Can't Tell You Why" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  25. ^ "Eagles – I Can't Tell You Why". Top 40 Singles.
  26. ^ "Eagles Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  27. ^ "Eagles Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard.
  28. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Archived from the original on April 25, 2016. Retrieved October 16, 2016.
  29. ^ "Pop Singles" Billboard December 20, 1980: TIA-10