Desperado (Eagles song)

"Desperado" is a song by the American rock band Eagles. It was written by Glenn Frey and Don Henley and appeared on the 1973 album Desperado as well as numerous compilation albums. Although the song was never released as a single, it is one of the group's best known songs and ranked No. 494 on Rolling Stone's 2004 list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[2]

Song by Eagles
from the album Desperado
ReleasedApril 17, 1973 (1973-04-17)
RecordedEarly 1973
GenreSoft rock[1]
Songwriter(s)Glenn Frey, Don Henley
Producer(s)Glyn Johns
Audio sample
Vocal and piano intro


According to Henley, Desperado was based on a song he started in 1968, written in the style of old songs by Stephen Foster.[3] The song was originally about a friend named Leo and began with "Leo, my God, why don’t you come to your senses..."[4] In 1972, after they had recorded their first album Eagles in London, Glenn Frey and Henley decided that they should write songs together.[5] In their first songwriting session after returning from London, Henley played Frey the unfinished version of the song, and said: "When I play it and sing it, I think of Ray Charles and Stephen Foster. It’s really a Southern Gothic thing, but we can easily make it more Western."[4] According to Henley, Frey "leapt right on it – filled in the blanks and brought structure", and the song became "Desperado". Henley added: "And that was the beginning of our songwriting partnership ... that’s when we became a team."[4]


The song was recorded at Island Studios in London, with musicians from the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The orchestra was conducted by Jim Ed Norman, Henley's friend from his former band Shiloh, who also wrote and arranged the strings for the song.[6][7] According to Henley, he was given only four or five takes to record the song by the producer Glyn Johns who wanted to record the album quickly and economically.[3] Henley felt intimidated by the large orchestra, and would later express regret that he did not sing as well as he could.[8] He said: "I didn't sing my best ... I wish I could have done that song again."[9]


"Desperado" is one of Eagles' most famous songs, and it was ranked No. 494 on the Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time" in 2004.[2] It was voted the No. 2 favorite Eagles song in a poll of Rolling Stone readers.[10] In 2000 the song was listed in MOJO magazine's list of greatest songs compiled with songs nominated by songwriters such as Paul McCartney, Hal David, and Brian Wilson.[11] Members of the Western Writers of America included it in their list of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.[12]

William Ruhlmann of AllMusic considered it one of Eagles' major compositions.[13][14] Paul Gambaccini of Rolling Stone felt it was Henley's rough voice that made the song memorable.[15] Although the song is one of Eagles' best-known songs, their recording never charted on Billboard until the death of Glenn Frey, when it reached No. 20 on the Rock Digital Songs chart.[16] After the antagonist of the film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 claimed that Brandy by the Looking Glass was "Earth’s finest composition", the lead singer of the Looking Glass countered that Desperado should have that title.[17]


Cover versionsEdit

Charted versionsEdit

Other versionsEdit

In popular cultureEdit

Eagles' version of the song was featured in the Seinfeld episode "The Checks."[30]

The song inspired the title of the 1987 Western TV movie, Desperado, written by Elmore Leonard.[31] It also served as the theme music for the TV movie, and its four sequels.


  1. ^ Horn, David; Shepherd, John, eds. (2012). Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World. 8 – Genres: North America. Continuum. p. 174. ISBN 978-1-4411-6078-2.
  2. ^ a b "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on December 17, 2006.
  3. ^ a b c Browne, David (June 10, 2016). "Eagles' Complete Discography: Don Henley Looks Back". Rolling Stone.
  4. ^ a b c Cameron Crowe (August 2003). "Conversations With Don Henley and Glenn Frey". The Uncool.
  5. ^ Travis Smiley. "Glenn Frey Tribute – Part 1". PBS.
  6. ^ Graeme Thomson (May 21, 2014). "The Eagles on Desperado: "We were quite taken with the idea of being outlaws..."". Uncut.
  7. ^ Paul Verna (July 10, 1993). "Eagles Songs Get Country Coverage". Billboard.
  8. ^ Bob Doeschuk (September 21, 2015). "10 Things We Learned From Billy Joel's Interview With Don Henley". Rolling Stone.
  9. ^ a b "Desperado by Eagles". Song Facts.
  10. ^ "Readers' Poll: The 10 Best Eagles Songs". Rolling Stone. July 29, 2015.
  11. ^ Colin Blackstock (July 13, 2000). "Beatles head list of greatest songs". The Guardian.
  12. ^ Western Writers of America (2010). "The Top 100 Western Songs". American Cowboy. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014.
  13. ^ William Ruhlmann. "Eagles: Desperado". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation.
  14. ^ William Ruhlmann. "Song Review - Eagles: Desperado". AllMusic.
  15. ^ Paul Gambaccini (May 10, 1973). "Desperado". Rolling Stone.
  16. ^ "Rock Digital Songs". Billboard. February 6, 2016.
  17. ^ Earth’s finest composition
  18. ^ "Johnny Rodriguez: Awards". AllMusic.
  19. ^ "Country Playlist: Volume 27, No. 1" (PDF). RPM. Library and Archives Canada. April 2, 1977.
  20. ^ "Hot Country Songs: November 27, 1993". Billboard.
  21. ^ "Country Tracks: Volume 58, No. 24" (PDF). RPM. Library and Archives Canada. December 25, 1993.
  22. ^ Brian Mansfield (September 22, 2014). "Premiere: Diana Krall covers 'Desperado'". USA TODAY.
  23. ^ "Jazz Digital Songs". Billboard. October 11, 2014.
  24. ^ Brian Cantor (May 24, 2016). "Chance The Rapper, Alisan Porter, J Balvin Score Debuts on Bubbling Under Hot 100". Headline Planet.
  25. ^ "Digital Songs". Billboard. June 4, 2016.
  26. ^ History of the Eagles. 2013. Event occurs at 54:15–54:45.
  27. ^ "Cover versions of Desperado by Chris LeDoux | SecondHandSongs". Retrieved 2016-11-15.
  28. ^ Sophie Schillaci (December 30, 2015). "Miranda Lambert Covers The Eagles' 'Desperado' In Show-Stopping Kennedy Center Honors Performance". Entertainment Tonight.
  29. ^ Retrieved 2019-11-25. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  30. ^ Dave Tobener (December 23, 2014). "The Best One-Time Character in 'Seinfeld' History". The AP Party.
  31. ^ Walter Mirisch, I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History (2008), p. 372.

External linksEdit