"Johnny Can't Read" is the solo debut single from Don Henley, included in his first solo album I Can't Stand Still (1982). It reached #33 in Cash Box magazine but stopped just short of Billboard's Top 40. The accompanying music video was very popular on MTV.
The song focuses upon reading illiteracy and raises several thought-provoking questions. This song also reflects Henley’s respect for reading and his reading background. As he stated in the book Heaven Is Under Our Feet,
"I began to read when I was five. My dad sometimes read me the ‘Funny Papers’ to me on Sundays and my mother, a college graduate and former schoolteacher, read to me almost every day from books. As I grew, she made sure that there was always reading material in the house that was suited to my age and ability."
As for his respect for reading, he stated, "American Literature, like the air we breathe, belongs--or should belong--to everybody." His pioneering project to raise money to preserve Walden Woods emphasized his respect for the written word.
Near the conclusion of this song, Henley sings the line "there's a new kid in town", which was the chorus to the song of the same name he recorded with the Eagles.