Don Henley Squares Off Against Artists Toying With His Music
Friday, June 6, 2014
Don Henley Squares Off Against Artists Toying With His Music
Don Henley remains very protective of his music and during a recent interview squared off against both Frank Ocean and Okkervil River for their attempts at co-opting or improperly covering his songs. Back in 2012, Frank Ocean of the Odd Future sampled the entire backing track to the Eagles' 1976 chart-topper "Hotel California" for his song, "American Wedding," and was forced to remove it from the Internet. Earlier this year, Henley slapped a young indie band Okkervill River with a cease and desist letter for their use of his song "The End Of The Innocence. The band compiled an online mix tape of 1980's classics that they loved as a companion piece to its 2013 album Silver Gymnasium, but once Henley found out about the inclusion of his 1989 tune, the trouble began.
Henley spoke of his issues with the band and Frank Ocean, telling Australia's Daily Telegraph, "Mr. Ocean doesn’t seem to understand U.S. copyright law. 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."
Henley added: "(Mr. Ocean) was quite arrogant about it. We tried to approach him calmly to talk reason to him via his managers and his attorneys and he wouldn’t listen. So finally we threatened to bring legal action against him. He was clearly in the wrong. I wouldn’t dream of doing something like that. What kind of ego is that? I don’t understand it."
Henley took particular umbrage with the fact that Okkervil River took the liberty of changing the words to his song: "They don’t understand the law either. You can’t re-write the lyrics to somebody else’s songs and record it and put it on the Internet. 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. It’s a different mindset. 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."
Although some might see the songs that Ocean and the Okkervil River produced as a tribute to the Eagles co-founder, Henley does not, explaining, "If I were going to do something like that (as a tribute) I’d get permission first. If you respect somebody you ask their permission to diddle around with their work. You don’t just go and do it. . . You can record anyone’s song you like. It’s called a compulsory license. That’s not what Mr. Ocean nor Okkervil River did."
A while back Don Henley appeared on VH1 and explained the harsh realities of the music business these days: "It's tough in this business. Y'know, if you're a writer, for instance, a novelist, or a painter, you are sort of allowed to have peaks and valleys in your career. In rock n' roll, seldom are you afforded the chance to make a mistake. I mean, maybe one album, if your second or third album doesn't do as well as your first album, y'know, then they'll stick with you. But if you stay out of the charts too long, or if you don't measure up to a certain sales figure, then you get, in the term in the industry, you get dropped." 
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