|Song by Eagles|
|from the album Desperado|
|Released||April 17, 1973|
|Glenn Frey, Don Henley|
Vocal and piano intro
"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 Stones 2004 list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".
According to Henley, Desperado was based on a song he started in 1968, written in the style of old songs by Stephen Foster. The song was originally about a friend named Leo and began with "Leo, my God, why don't you come to your senses..." In 1972, after they had recorded their first album Eagles in London, Glenn Frey and Henley decided that they should write songs together. 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." 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."
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. According to Henley, he was only given four or five takes to record the song by the producer Glyn Johns who wanted to record the album quickly and economically. Henley felt intimidated by the large orchestra, and would later express regret that he did not sing as well as he could. He said: "I didn't sing my best ... I wish I could have done that song again."
"Desperado" is one of Eagles' most famous songs, and it was ranked No. 494 on the Rolling Stones list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time" in 2004. It was voted the No. 2 favorite Eagles song in a poll of Rolling Stone readers. 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. Members of the Western Writers of America included it in their list of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.
William Ruhlmann of AllMusic considered it one of Eagles' major compositions.Paul Gambaccini of Rolling Stone felt it was Henley's rough voice that made the song memorable. 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.