|Day 184: Don Henley (The Heart Of The Matter)
September 21, 2022
Who thought that I would get to the age of 60 and have Don Henley's voice be in my head so often?
I have expressed my general cynicism about the Eagles, either as a group or solo, before: great music, excellent songwriters, but something that always felt a little disingenuous.
As a solo artist, Henley was able, to a degree, to break from that harsh criticism I held for the group. It certainly didn't hurt that "Boys of Summer" was so luxuriously gorgeous that it moved him away from "Dirty Laundry" and "The Long Run," which both tried too hard to make me care about the spoiled celebrity.
However, now, as I face that last stage in life, I find myself more and more looking into the heart of matters: love, loyalty, leadership, life. And inevitably I keep coming back to that heartbreaking line, "but it's about forgiveness/forgiveness/even if you don't love me anymore."
It's a hook buried in a fantastic song, Henley helped by his old buddy, J.D. Souther, and for the basic melody, Mike Campbell, one of the greatest unsung heroes of rock music. Campbell's style is all over that opening chord sequence. Most of us know Campbell as Tom Petty's song-writing partner/guitarist, but his legacy extends way beyond that collaboration: "Boys of Summer" (with Henley); "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" (with Stevie Nicks); "Ways To Be Wicked" (with Lone Justice); and "Lubbock Or Leave It" (with The Dixie Chicks). The guy should be getting top billing. It ain't fair.
Forgiveness, David, forgiveness even if life is unfair.
We spend our lives struggling with forgiveness for things we can't forget, for hurts that never completely heal, for regrets we can't dismiss or resentments we can't discount. As my head fixates on that chorus, Henley and a trio of back-up singers nailing the richness of "forgiveness/forgiveness," the final dependent clause may not be "even if you don't love me anymore," but may be "even if you still don't understand," or "even if you will never change." Bring me a scenario, I'll try and make forgiveness fit.
It's the start of the chorus, "the more I know the less, I understand/All the things I thought I knew, I'm learning again," that delivers the heart of the matter. Forgiveness comes in part from understanding that we are not perfect. I have always been especially disgusted by arrogance, that certainty of one's knowledge, perspective, or belief. I got into a major argument with someone recently, wrapping up my part of the apology with "I'm 60, and I'm still learning how to deal with disagreement." Every time I think I have sloughed off one resentment, another takes its place in line.
I may never figure it out but I better never forget about forgiveness, forgiveness, even if I don't change.
Frankly, it's hard to believe the song is 33 years old, especially when you hear the lines "These times are so uncertain, there's a yearning undefined/people filled with rage, we all need a little tenderness."
1989? People filled with rage? Who you kidding?
The Satanic Verses? Ask Salman Rushdie if he is safer now than in 1989?
Exxon Valdez environmental disaster? Try drought across major parts of the western United States.
Oliver North and Iran-Contra? Hah, good luck getting half of the populace to give a shit.
Doe v. University of Michigan? Change that D to an R and see the reaction.
Flag-burning outside of the U.S. Capital building? So clichè and so passè.
What the hell did anyone have to be pissy about in 1989?? You ain't seen nothin' yet.
Forgiveness, David, forgiveness, even if no one really cares.
Don Henley. "The Heart Of The Matter." The End Of The Innocence. Geffen, 1989. Link here.
Day 183: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones "The Impression That I Get"
Day 185: Greg Hawkes "Block Party"
Unfinished list here.