If you’re wondering why Don Henley is sporting such a strong don’t-screw-with-me look in the above photo, it’s probably because the Eagles frontman isn’t happy about a couple young acts tearing pages from his songbook. Namely Frank Ocean and Okkervil River, who referenced his work in recent years without Henley’s permission.
“Mr Ocean doesn’t seem to understand US copyright law,” Henley told the Daily Telegraph this week, referring to the “Hotel California”-sampling “American Wedding”. “Anyone who knows anything should know you cannot take a master track of a recording and write another song over the top of it. You just can’t do that. You can call it a tribute or whatever you want to call it, but it’s against the law. That’s a problem with some of the younger generation — they don’t understand the concept of intellectual property and copyright.”
He went on to call Ocean “arrogant” for not listening to Henley’s legal team, then launched into a tirade against Okkervil River over their loose cover of his solo composition “The End of the Innocence,” which featured new lyrics from frontman Will Sheff and was ultimately removed from the band’s free Golden Opportunities 3 mixtape.
“You can’t rewrite the lyrics to somebody else’s songs and record it and put it on the internet,” Henley explained. “I’m sorry, but it wasn’t an improvement. We were not impressed. So we simply had our legal team tell them to take it down and they got all huffy about it.
He continued, “I don’t know how they’d react if I took one of their songs and re-wrote the lyrics and recorded it, I don’t know if they’d like that. Maybe they wouldn’t care but I care. We work really really hard on our material. We spend months writing it and years recording it. You don’t go into a museum and paint a mustache on somebody else’s painting. Nobody would think of doing that.”
To which Sheff replied, “I would be honored if Don Henley took one of my songs and re-wrote the lyrics and recorded it. That’s how folk music works … Artists should be allowed to pass ideas back & forth. It should [be] less about if [someone] ‘stole’ something, more abt [sic] if you made it original.”