Has Don Henley, the singing drummer of the Eagles been grounded due to a heart stent? The Eagles, who are coming up on their fortieth year as a functioning unit (with an infamous thirteen year breakup in the middle of it), had to postpone a number of concerts over the past several weeks due to an undisclosed illness striking co-founder Don Henley.
The concerts were all rescheduled in the not too distant future, so it was assumed that whatever was ailing Henley was not that serious.
But last night, the Eagles closed out the Austin City Limits festival and Henley was not behind the drums at all. While in recent years, Henley has turned over the drumming on many songs to session musicians, for the most part the classic Eagles songs (such as Hotel California, Life in the Fast Lane and One of These Nights) featured Henley, the singing drummer.
People pay exorbitant prices to see the Eagles in concert; mostly to relive their youth and eat the ‘music comfort food’ that the band has provided for decades. But as Henley himself once said, there is a fascination, it seems, watching somebody drum and sing at the same time. Henley once said in an interview, “I think people enjoy watching me sing and play the drums. It seems to fascinate people. I don’t know why.” For years, he suffered back problems as a result of singing and drumming at once; the angles and positions that he needed to be in to do both effectively caused his spine to get out of alignment. Henley explained, “I used to have to hold my body in such a position that my spine got out of alignment. Between playing the drums and keeping my mouth in front of the microphone, it really twisted my whole body.”
For years, though, Henley continued to do it as Eagles concerts took on an air of precision and professionalism in which every detail was well conceived of and executed. The only real knock on Eagles concerts, in fact, was that each show was nearly a carbon copy of every other show. Nothing ever seemed to change. But last night, Henley never ventured behind the drums. He sang and reportedly sounded great, but he didn’t drum. So what gives?
It turns out that before the show, rumors were flying that Henley’s undisclosed illness resulted in him having to have a stent implanted in his heart, preventing him from drumming. Could this be the end of a classic rock era of sorts? Have we seen the last of Don Henley behind the drums?
Nobody has publicly said that Henley’s career is in jeopardy of being is over; in fact, Henley has plans to release two new solo albums in the near future. But if reports of a heart stent are true and if that means Henley cannot drum again, it does mean one of the signature trademarks of an Eagles show could be, well, already gone.