I Can't Tell You Why

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"I Can't Tell You Why"
Eagles - I Can't Tell You Why.jpg
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]
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, 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 Billboard Hot 100 and number 3 on the Adult Contemporary chart.[3] It is their last Top Ten hit on the Hot 100.


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. Henley described the finished song as "straight Al Green", and that 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.[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 with 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, Walsh on the organ and Walsh's touring sideman Joe Vitale on ARP string 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
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)[9]
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[edit]


  1. ^ "0/1: 5 essential Eagles albums- 'Hotel to 'Border'". AZCentral.
  2. ^ Ruhlmann, William. The Long Run at AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-10-22.
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–2001. Record Research. p. 84. ISBN 0898201497.
  4. ^ Glazer, Mitchell (July 1983). "Don Henley Musician Interview". Musician.
  5. ^ a b Crowe, Cameron (August 2003). "Conversations With Don Henley and Glenn Frey". The Uncool.
  6. ^ "Timothy B. Schmit of the Eagles". SongFacts.com. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
  7. ^ a b "The Eagles Timothy B. Schmit talks about The Long Run, his solo career & life as an Eagle". LegendaryRockInterviews.com. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
  8. ^ "Interview: Timothy B. Schmit on playing with The Eagles, solo touring". MusicRadar.com. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
  9. ^ a b "I Can't Tell You Why" at Discogs (list of releases)
  10. ^ The Very Best of Howard Hewett at AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-02-25.
  11. ^ Whitaker, Sterling. "Remember When Vince Gill Covered the Eagles?". Taste of Country.
  12. ^ Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles at AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-10-22.
  13. ^ From the Bottom Up at AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-10-22.
  14. ^ "Larry Carlton - I Can't Tell You Why". youtube.com. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  15. ^ "Lazlo Bane's Guilty Pleasures". cdbaby.com. Retrieved January 10, 2017.
  16. ^ "Diana Krall: I Can't Tell You Why". Billboard Smooth Jazz Songs - Billboard.com. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  17. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 0153a." RPM. Library and Archives Canada.
  18. ^ "Top RPM Adult Contemporary: Issue 4712." RPM. Library and Archives Canada.
  19. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Eagles – I Can't Tell You Why" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  20. ^ "Charts.nz – Eagles – I Can't Tell You Why". Top 40 Singles.
  21. ^ "Eagles Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  22. ^ "Eagles Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard.
  23. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved October 16, 2016.
  24. ^ "Pop Singles" Billboard December 20, 1980: TIA-10

External links[edit]