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Don Henley: "You can't be a pushover or a pansy"

As the Eagles man releases his first solo album in 15 years, Don Henley looks back on fame, self-destruction and surviving the 70s.

Don Henley, singer, drummer and co-songwriter with America’s biggest-ever band, is bats about bats.

He surveys the view of the river outside his Austin, Texas hotel window, specifically the area by the bridge, and the “literally millions” of winged creatures that, at dusk, fly out and darken the night sky. “They go off to gather bugs, then come back,” he says in a low, grumbling drawl. “There are a lot of bats here because of the caves.”

The son of a farmer, Henley knows his subject. “Bats are very valuable animals for agriculture: they’re as important for pollination as bees. They’re also a big tourist attraction round here. You can see lines of people standing by the bridge, watching at night. It’s pretty amazing.”

There is the slightest trace of a smile on his face as he considers the wonder of nature, like a country-rock Attenborough. “You can hire a boat out to see them more clearly,” he advises although, he adds ruefully in his best Cockney accent, “you might get shat on.”

There’s a track on your new solo album Cass County called The Cost Of Living that goes, ‘Me, I take the hand I’m dealt.’ Is that you?

Yeah. Or if it’s not me, it’s the person I’d like to be. Actually, a lot of things in my life have gotten better in my sixties.  I’m two years away from seventy and things aren’t that bad. I’ve got my health, I’ve got four wonderful children, I’ve got a great wife, there’s my work. Things are pretty good.

Are you happier at 68 than you were at 28?

Not in every respect. I wish I had that energy. But I’ve gone back to studying the Stoics, like I did at college when I read English and Philosophy. They had the attitude of taking everything as it comes. As we so inelegantly put it these days: shit happens.


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