On This Day: The Eagles Release Their Final No. 1 Single ‘Heartache Tonight’ in 1979

by Suzanne Halliburton
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It’s a Saturday night. Seems like the best time to celebrate The Eagles and the group’s fantastic Heartache Tonight.

Because we all need to take a little chance and make it come out right.

The Eagles released the song 42 years ago today. And it proved to be the group’s final No. 1 song. We all know the words by heart. It’s almost like The Eagles knew this hit would be their final big one and wanted it to linger through the generations. You can tell from this verse:

“This night is gonna last forever, last all last all summer long. Sometimes before the sun comes up, radio is gonna play that song.”

Listen to the song and get back to us on the other side. We’ll break down some Eagles details about how they came up with this Grammy winner.

Glenn Frey Fretted that Eagles Heartache Tonight Had Too Many Writers

The Eagles used a collaborative song-writing effort to create Heartache Tonight. Don Henley and Glenn Frey helped write the song. And they had help from Bob Seger and J. D. Souther, The song was born from a jam session with Frey and Souther. Then Frey asked Seger, his mentor, for some help.

There was a definite influence.

Glenn Frey and I had been listening to Sam Cooke records at my house,” Souther told Songfacts in 2011. “So, we were just walking around, clapping our hands and snapping fingers and singing the verses to those songs. The melody sounds very much like those Sam Cooke shuffles.”

Seger remembered some more details about the birth of the song.

“Glenn had the verse: ‘Somebody’s gonna hurt someone before the night is through,'” Seger told Entertainment Weekly. “We hadn’t been sitting down for more that five minutes and I just blurted out, ‘There’s gonna be a heartache tonight!’ His eyes lit up huge.”

There’s a drum beat throughout the song. That was Henley’s inspiration. Rolling Stone reported that Henley laid on his back on the studio floor. He put a snare drum on his lap and started pounding it with a mallet.

“He did that forever,” says Tim Schmit, another member of The Eagles. “It took a long time.”

Still, Souther said that Frey fretted about whether four writers were too many for a single song. Souther said he told him ‘Sure, if it’s good.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, it’s great. Seger just sang this to me,’ and he sang it to me and I said, ‘That’s fantastic.'”

Rolling Stone Ranked Song as 10th Best Single from the Group

And yes, the song was fantastic. Rolling Stone ranked it as the 10th best Eagles song. Hotel California, Take It Easy and Desperado represented the top three. But since we’re talking the Eagles, they’re all good.

Heartache Tonight was from the album The Long Run. Released a couple of weeks after Labor Day, the single was the top song in the country by Thanksgiving.

The Eagles broke up in 1980, within a few months of Heartache Tonight. But the musical universe knew fans needed this — the Eagles regrouped by 1994 and released another album in 2007.

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