The hit by the Eagles, first appeared on the 1973 album by the same name.
Don Henley began writing parts of the song in the late 1960s. After he and Glenn Grey teamed up, the song was finished. This was the first of many songs the duo wrote together.
Henley explained in the liner notes for The Very Best of the Eagles: “Glenn came over to write one day, and I showed him this unfinished tune that I had been holding for so many years. I said, ‘When I play it and sing it, I think of Ray Charles – Ray Charles and Stephen Foster. It’s really a Southern gothic thing, but we can easily make it more Western.’ Glenn leapt right on it – filled in the blanks and brought structure. And that was the beginning of our songwriting partnership – that’s when we became a team.”
In 1972, the Eagles released their first album, which was self-titled. It is described as “peaceful, easy and likable L.A.-style country-rock that rarely grabbed at more than it could handle.”
A year later, the group released a concept album about the Old West. The 19th Century outlaws, the Dalton Gang, was heavily featured. This album is described as having “mostly acoustic ballads and mournful country tunes, at times sounds richer and more focused than the debut.”
There are various interpretations of the song “Desperado.” Some describe an outlaw so hardened that he refuses to fall in love. Others use the same parallel of a rock star, who is longing for love instead. Still others draw on the first lines which depict a confused man’s state of mind who is prolonged by the pleasure of his experiences. The second half is described as pleading with the young man to realize what he has before it’s too late.
Desperado, a Classic Rock Staple, was never released as a single. The Eagles did re-release the song on their “Best of…” album.
The song was ranked #494 on the 2004 Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”