The Eagles' 15 greatest songs, ranked

22 August 2023, 13:14 | Updated: 3 July 2024, 16:14

The Eagles (L-R Glenn Frey, Don Felder, Don Henley, Joe Walsh and Timothy B.Schmitt)
The Eagles (L-R Glenn Frey, Don Felder, Don Henley, Joe Walsh and Timothy B.Schmitt). Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

The Eagles are one of the most successful and influential rock bands of all time.

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With a career spanning more than five decades, they have sold over 150 million records worldwide and won six Grammy Awards.

Their songs combine elements of country, folk, and rock, creating a distinctive sound that appeals to millions of fans.

But what are the best Eagles songs? How do they rank among the band’s extensive catalog? And what are the stories behind them?

  1. Best of My Love

    Best of My Love (2018 Remaster)

    This song was written by Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and JD Souther, and was recorded in London with producer Glyn Johns, who gave it a smooth and polished sound.

    The song was released as the third single from the Eagles’ third album, On the Border, in November 1974.

    It became the band’s first number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

    The song was inspired by the personal experiences of the songwriters, who were all going through romantic troubles at the time. Henley said that he wrote most of the lyrics while sitting in a booth at Dan Tana’s Restaurant near the Troubadour club in Los Angeles.

    He said that he was feeling “a lot of guilt and remorse” over his breakup with his girlfriend Suzannah Martin. Frey said that he came up with the tune while trying to figure out a guitar tuning that Joni Mitchell had shown him.

  2. Witchy Woman

    Eagles Witchy Woman Live in Houston 1976

    This classic rock song is about the mysterious and seductive allure of a woman who practices the occult.

    The song was written by Don Henley and Bernie Leadon, who were inspired by different sources, such as a biography of Zelda Fitzgerald, the wife of the famous novelist F Scott Fitzgerald, books by Carlos Castaneda on shamanism, and a girl they knew who was into witchcraft.

    The song was released as the second single from the Eagles’ debut album in 1972, and it reached No. 9 on the Billboard pop singles chart.

    It was also the first commercially successful song that Henley wrote, and it showcased his distinctive vocals and drumming skills. The song also has a distinctive guitar solo by Leadon, who used a banjo with a phase shifter effect to create a psychedelic sound.

  3. Peaceful Easy Feeling

    Peaceful Easy Feeling (2013 Remaster)

    This is a classic soft rock and country rock tune that expresses the singer's contentment and love for a woman. The song was written by Jack Tempchin, a friend of the band’s members, who was inspired by his experiences as a folk singer in San Diego.

    The song was released as the third single from the Eagles’ debut album in 1972, and reached No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

    The song features Glenn Frey on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, Bernie Leadon on electric guitar and harmony vocals, Randy Meisner on bass and backing vocals, and Don Henley on drums and backing vocals.

  4. Heartache Tonight

    Eagles - Heartache Tonight

    This classic rock anthem captures the mood of a night of passion, excitement, and inevitable pain. The song was written by Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Bob Seger, and JD Souther, who collaborated in a spontaneous jam session at Frey’s house.

    The song also showcases the guitar skills of Joe Walsh, who came up with the bridge section.

    It reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming the Eagles’ fifth and final number-one hit. The song also won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 1980.

    The song is about the anticipation of heartbreak that comes with a one-night stand or a casual fling. They are aware that there will be consequences and regrets, but they are willing to take the risk anyway.

    The song has been covered by several artists, such as Jon Anderson, Michael Bublé, and Tom Jones.

  5. New Kid in Town

    New Kid in Town (2013 Remaster)

    This is a classic rock ballad that explores the themes of fame, love, and change. It was released in 1976 as the first single from their album Hotel California, and it reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the US and number 20 in the UK.

    The song was written by Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and JD Souther, who were inspired by their own experiences of being popular musicians and facing competition from younger artists.

    The song tells the story of a new singer who arrives in town and attracts the attention of everyone, including his girlfriend. He feels insecure and jealous, knowing that his fame and romance are fading away. He tries to warn the new kid that his success will not last, and that he will soon be replaced by someone else.

  6. Seven Bridges Road

    Seven Bridges Road (Live) (2013 Remaster)

    'Seven Bridges Road' is a cover of a song written by Steve Young, an American musician who was inspired by a scenic road in Alabama that had seven bridges along its path.

    The song was first recorded by Young in 1969, and has since been covered by many artists, but the most famous version is the one by the Eagles, who recorded it live in 1980 for their album Eagles Live.

    The song is a blend of country rock and folk music, featuring a five-part harmony arrangement by Iain Matthews, an English musician who had previously recorded the song in 1973.

    The lyrics describe the beauty and mystery of the road, as well as feelings of nostalgia and longing for a former lover who lives there.

    The song has been praised for its vocal harmonies and acoustic guitar work, as well as its poetic imagery and emotional depth. It is considered one of the Eagles’ signature songs and a classic of country rock music.

  7. Life in the Fast Lane

    Life In The Fast Lane (Live On MTV, 1994)

    'Life in the Fast Lane' is a rock anthem that captures the thrill and danger of living a hedonistic lifestyle. It was inspired by a real-life encounter that Glenn Frey had with a drug dealer who drove recklessly on the freeway and said, "What do you mean? It’s life in the fast lane!"

    Frey then collaborated with Joe Walsh and Don Henley to write the lyrics and the music for the song, which features a distinctive guitar riff by Walsh that he played during a rehearsal.

  8. Tequila Sunrise

    Eagles - Tequila Sunrise (Live From Melbourne) (Official Video) [4K]

    This song was written by Don Henley and Glenn Frey, who were inspired by a cocktail of the same name that was popular in the 1970s.

    The song tells the story of a man who is in love with a woman who is only using him as a “hired hand”. He knows that he has to let her go, but he can’t help feeling lonely and hopeless as he watches the sun rise every morning. He tries to cope with his pain by drinking tequila, which he calls “a shot of courage”.

    The song was released as the first single from the band’s second album, Desperado, in 1973.

    Glenn Frey said that he was initially unsure about the title, but Henley convinced him that it was a good metaphor for their situation as struggling musicians in Los Angeles.

  9. I Can't Tell You Why

    Eagles - I Can't Tell You Why (Official Video) [HD]

    This yacht rock-style ballad showcases the soulful vocals of Timothy B Schmit, who joined the band in 1977 as a replacement for Randy Meisner.

    The song was co-written by Schmit, Glenn Frey and Don Henley, and it was the first song completed for the band’s sixth studio album, The Long Run, released in 1979.

    The song is about a troubled relationship, where the singer is unable to explain why he or she stays with a partner who causes so much pain and frustration. The lyrics express a mix of regret, longing, and resignation, as the singer admits that he or she is “afraid to let you go”.

  10. Take it to the Limit

    The Eagles - Take It To The Limit - (Live at the capital center 1977)

    This classic soft rock ballad showcases the vocal talents of Randy Meisner, who co-wrote the song with Don Henley and Glenn Frey.

    It reached No. 4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and No. 12 in the UK, becoming the Eagles’ most successful single in the UK at that time.

    It is about living life to the fullest and not giving up on one’s dreams, even when faced with challenges and difficulties. The chorus repeats the phrase “take it to the limit one more time”, which Meisner said was inspired by his feeling of getting older and wanting to keep trying new things.

    It was a staple of the Eagles’ live performances, and Meisner usually received a standing ovation for his rendition. However, the song also contributed to Meisner’s departure from the band in 1977, as he felt pressured by Frey and Henley to sing it every night, even when he was not feeling well or confident.

    Meisner said that he felt like a “jukebox” and that he wanted more creative input in the band. After Meisner left, the song was rarely performed by the Eagles until their reunion in 1994, when it was sung by Timothy B Schmit, who replaced Meisner as the bassist and harmony vocalist.

  11. Desperado

    Eagles - Desperado (Live from Melbourne) (Official Video) [4K]

    The Eagles song 'Desperado' is a classic ballad that explores the theme of loneliness and the search for love.

    The song was written by Glenn Frey and Don Henley, who were inspired by the Western genre and the idea of a solitary outlaw. The song was part of the concept album Desperado, which told the story of a fictional band of outlaws called the Doolin-Dalton gang.

    The song has a simple structure, consisting of four verses and a chorus, with a piano and string accompaniment. The lyrics use the metaphor of a desperado, a reckless and adventurous person who lives outside the law, to describe someone who is afraid of commitment and intimacy.

    The narrator urges the desperado to give up his wandering ways and find someone who can heal his heart. The song also references some elements of the Western culture, such as poker, horses, fences, and prisons.

    The song was never released as a single, but it became one of the Eagles’ most popular and enduring songs. It has been covered by many artists, such as Linda Ronstadt, Johnny Cash, Diana Krall, and Clint Black.

  12. Take it Easy

    Eagles - Take It Easy (Live on MTV 1994) (Official Video) [HD]

    'Take it Easy' is a classic example of country rock, and was written by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey, who were both singer-songwriters in the early 1970s.

    Browne had started the song but could not finish it, so he asked Frey for help. Frey added the famous line “It’s a girl, my lord, in a flatbed Ford, slowin’ down to take a look at me” after seeing a woman driving a truck in Winslow, Arizona.

    The song was released as the first single from the Eagles’ debut album in 1972 and became a hit, reaching No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

    The song also established the Eagles as a new force in the music scene, with their distinctive vocal harmonies and guitar work. The song has a relaxed and optimistic tone, reflecting the laid-back lifestyle of Southern California, where the band was based.

  13. Lyin' Eyes

    The Eagles - Lyin' Eyes - (Live at the capital center 1977)

    This song tells the story of a young woman who is unhappy in her marriage to a wealthy older man, and who cheats on him with a younger lover. The song explores the themes of deception, betrayal, guilt, and regret, as well as the contrast between the glamorous and the mundane aspects of life.

    It was written by Don Henley and Glenn Frey, who were inspired by observing a beautiful woman with a rich but unattractive man at a Los Angeles restaurant. They wondered what her life was like, and what secrets she was hiding behind her “lyin’ eyes”.

    The song was released as the second single from their album One of These Nights in 1975, and reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

  14. One of These Nights

    Eagles - One of these nights (Live).....

    This track song was written by Don Henley and Glenn Frey, who wanted to create something different from their usual country-rock and ballad style.

    They were inspired by R&B music and disco, and they incorporated a catchy bass-drum pattern and a smooth guitar solo by Don Felder. The song is about the desire to find love and adventure, and the anticipation of what might happen on one of these nights.

    It was released as the lead single from the band’s fourth studio album of the same name, and became their second number one hit in the US.

    Frey said that it was his favorite Eagles record, and that it was a breakthrough song for them. He said: “We made a quantum leap with ‘One Of These Nights.’ It was a breakthrough song. It is my favorite Eagles record. If I ever had to pick one, it wouldn’t be ‘Hotel California’; it wouldn’t be ‘Take It Easy.’ For me, it would be ‘One Of These Nights.’”

  15. Hotel California

    Eagles - Hotel California (Live 1977) (Official Video) [HD]

    'Hotel California' is one of the most famous and popular songs in rock history. It was released as the title track of their fifth studio album in 1977, and became a number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

    The song was written by Don Felder, Don Henley, and Glenn Frey, and features a memorable guitar solo by Felder and Joe Walsh at the end.

    The song has been interpreted in various ways by fans and critics, but the Eagles have said that it is mainly about their own experiences in the music industry and the Los Angeles lifestyle.

    The song uses the metaphor of a hotel as a place of temptation, excess, and corruption, where “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”. The song also reflects the disillusionment and loss of innocence that the band felt as they became more successful and famous.

    The song has been praised for its lyrics, melody, and production, and has received many awards and accolades. It won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1978.